building a gym

Finding Gym Space Part V: The Dos and Don’ts of Building a Gym

Building a gym can be a great option for some fitness business owners. Here's a list of dos and don'ts to help you navigate the process!

Emily Beers
January 24, 2024
Finding Gym Space Part V: The Dos and Don’ts of Building a Gym
Building a gym can be a great option for some fitness business owners. Here's a list of dos and don'ts to help you navigate the process!

Emily Wester and her husband Mike had always dreamed of building a gym. When the perfect plot of land became available, they had to act fast. Within six hours of the property being listed, there were already three interested buyers lined up ahead of them.

So the Westers rushed to get their ducks in a row. They secured the property and acquired a construction loan.

“So we maybe weren’t quite ready to start the loan process,” Emily noted. “But in order to not lose this place, we kind of rushed things, or forgot to include them.”

Ribbon cutting after building a gym
The official ribbon cutting during the grand opening of Legendary Fitness. (Photo credit: Legendary Fitness)

Emily said they also underestimated the cost of building a gym. This meant having to dig into their own pockets and “get really creative in doing so.”

Despite the mistakes, Legendary Fitness in Prairie Grove, AR opened in September 2023.

Legendary Growth After Starting a New Gym.

Prairie Grove is a small town of just 7,000 people. However, a larger population of more than 23,000 live within 15 minutes of Legendary Fitness.

Emily credits building a gym in this location to part of their success. They’re the only gym in the area, which has helped them capture new gym clients. Before, many of their members would travel a significant distance to a gym in the main part of town.

Just two months after opening their doors, the Westers hit 150 gym members. And now, five months in, they’re at 180 and climbing.

Emily also gave a shoutout to their PushPress website and PushPress Grow. She noted that right off the bat, the combination of gym management products helped them generate more leads than they knew what to do with.

“Without PushPress automations, I probably would be a whole lot busier, a lot more stressed out and would have missed (capturing) a lot of people,” Emily said.

Pro Tip: Want to learn how PushPress Grow can help your gym grow with a search-engine optimized website and game-changing CRM system? Book a demo with our team today!

Six Dos and Don’ts for Building a Gym.

1. Do Add a Miscellaneous Column to Your Expense Projections.

If she could go back in time, Emily said she would add a “miscellaneous” column on her budget sheet. There are always unexpected costs in building a gym that come up along the way.

Some expenses ended up costing more than she had anticipated, like the HVAC system. But luckily, others - like plumbing - cost less than originally quoted. Ultimately, a miscellaneous column would have given the Westers some wiggle room to account for unexpected costs.

“Round up and overestimate slightly if you can,” she said.

2. Don’t Rush The Process.

In the Wester’s unique situation, rush decisions had to be made in order to secure the property and loan. This meant overlooking some key costs like paving a large parking lot, installing a bay door and the contractor fees.

Legendary Fitness gym building process
Early stages of the Legendary Fitness gym build. (Photo credit: Legendary Fitness)

“Had we been more prepared and well thought out, this wouldn’t have happened,” she said.

However for most business owners building a gym, this likely won’t be the case. So Emily said you’ll be better off by taking your time and not rushing the process.

3. Do Exercise Persistence.

Throughout the timeline of the build, Emily said she sometimes felt remorse for being persistent. She recalled almost feeling like she was harassing her contractors. But in hindsight, she knows it’s what helped her get what she needed.

“Things get done when you kind of make them get done,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to be annoying. I constantly felt like we were harping on these contractors, but you kind of have to. Don’t be afraid to do that. Don’t wait on other people to do the job for you. They're working for you, so make them work for you. And don’t be afraid to hold people to deadlines.”

4. Don’t Neglect Your Network of Other Gym Owners.

One of the best things gym owners can do, especially when building a gym, is to lean on the help of other people who understand the highs and lows of this business. As gym owners ourselves, the PushPress team understands the value of being connected to the right people.

With that in mind, don’t be afraid to reach out. Listen to the lessons learned, ask questions, celebrate wins together and most importantly, avoid gym owner burnout. Along the way, you’ll find other gym owners who have circumstances similar to your own.

“If you’re leasing, talk to someone who's leasing,” said Emily. “And if you're going to build, talk to someone who has built.”

That’s exactly what she did, turning to two gym owners she knew and trusted for advice. Looking back, she said it helped her avoid making mistakes than she otherwise might have.

Pro Tip: Are you a member of the PushPress Facebook Community yet? Other gym owners are sharing helpful info about how to increase revenue, close sales and more. Click here to join the fun today!

5. Do Take a Proactive Approach.

Though Emily and Mike did have a realtor, nobody was more invested in finding the right property for building a gym than they were.

“My husband looked (at properties online) every day for at least 15 minutes,” Emily said. “And that’s how we found this place. We ended up here because we went and looked every single day. You really have to be relentless.”

Matt and Emily Wester gym owners
Mike and Emily Wester, owners of Legendary Fitness in Prairie Grove, AR. (Photo credit: Legendary Fitness)

In the end, that relentless pursuit helped them find their dream property within six hours of it being listed. The couple knows that it likely wouldn’t have happened had they relied on their realtor.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Shop Around for a Contractor.

When putting together their initial loan proposal, the Westers met with a local contractor. However, they quickly realized that person just wasn’t the right one for the job. So they shopped around and eventually landed on the one they ended up working with.

Therefore, Emily suggested taking your time before deciding on a contractor. The right one can make a substantial difference every step of the way.

“Choose contractors carefully and make sure you have a written contract,” she said. “Something you actually sign with them.”

In Summary: Taking the Right Steps to Opening a Gym.

When Emily and Mike Wester first thought about building a gym, they didn’t anticipate some of the road blocks they would encounter. Despite admittedly making some mistakes along the way, the couple couldn’t be happier with how their business is going.

Just five months into being open, they have a flourishing gym, and it’s “going a lot better than I thought it would,” Emily said.

In an effort to help other gym owners succeed as well, Emily offered a few dos and don’ts. Do add a “miscellaneous” column to your expense projections, exercise persistence and take a proactive approach. Don’t rush the process, neglect your network or be afraid to shop around for a contractor.

Emily Beers

Emily Beers is a health, fitness and nutrition writer. She has also been coaching fitness at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C. since 2009.

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