“I just need a big warehouse space for my gym. How hard can finding a gym location be?”
Choosing the perfect location for your fitness facility isn’t rocket science but there are many nuances to consider. Here are the top ten tips from the PushPress team, made up of gym owners and decades of collective experience:
1. Do Your Bylaw Research.
This might be an obvious step but the gym location you choose must be zoned for a fitness facility. The last thing you want after securing a space is to find out you can’t get a business license because of the wrong zoning.
Take the time - ahead of time - to do your research on your city’s bylaws. They may be more restrictive than you expected, which could alter your location decisions. Occasionally, you can get a conditional-use permit for your business, but this can often be time-consuming and expensive.
In addition, many cities have stringent parking requirements for fitness facilities, requiring as much as eight spaces per 1,000 square feet of gym space. Invest the time in doing your research, as it will be worth avoiding surprises once you’ve committed.
2. Research The Competition.
Every gym owner will tell you that the fitness industry is a competitive one. While it might seem convenient to choose a gym location within a short drive from your house, or in the heart of downtown, researching your competition is key.
Find out how saturated the area already is with various gyms. Choose the location you intend to open, then research all the fitness-related facilities within a five-mile radius. Even if you eventually beat out the competition because you offer the best product, the initial stages of being in business will be easier if you’re the only one on your block.
On the other hand, it is worth positioning yourself near other wellness-related businesses, such as physiotherapy, chiropractic or massage. This is a great opportunity to forge a relationship with other health practitioners and create a referral culture.
3. Acquire Adequate Square Footage.
Finding the right amount of square footage is somewhat of a balancing act. You don’t want to rent too big of a fitness facility before you have the client base to support it. But moving is expensive, and you don’t want to outgrow your space within the first year of business. So where do you aim?
Look for a space that will allow you to grow for 3-5 years before you need to think about upgrading. Your best-case-scenario is a gym location with the potential to expand without moving (i.e. taking over the space next door) when you’re ready.
As a general rule, you need about 100-125 square feet of space for each member in a given class. Obviously, this depends on the type of workouts you provide.
For example, if your workout space (not total square footage, but actual workout space) is 2,000 square feet, then technically you could fit 16 to 20 members at once (2000 divided by 100/125). That may sound a bit tight - and again, it depends on the workout - but it’s a good starting point.
4. Get To Know Your Neighbors.
Imagine securing the perfect gym location, only to find out the neighbors think you make too much noise. Many times, gym culture includes loud music and dropping weights, which can be unexpected and annoying for neighboring businesses.
We even heard about one gym owner who opened up on top of a bookstore. Whenever the athletes dropped weights, books fell off the shelves in the bookstore below. Needless to say, he had to find a new location.
Do your research and get to know your neighbors. Ensure you’re selecting a gym location where loud music, noise and dropping weights won’t be a problem.
As an added measure, be aware of nearby residential neighborhoods. If your gym borders a residential area, you could be in for obstacles if your neighbors don’t appreciate the noise or music coming from your facility.
5. Provide Free and Ample Parking.
Your clients will already be paying a premium to train at your facility. They don’t need to budget more for parking. Even worse is a lack of parking spaces available, forcing them to circle the block for 15 minutes, frustrated and late for training.
Find a facility with a plethora of available, free parking. Gym owners with years of ownership under their belts agree that this seemingly-insignificant step will make more of a difference than you think.
6. Seek Out High Ceilings.
Ceiling height is an important - and often overlooked - element of a useful gym space. Primarily, you don’t want your gym to feel cramped or claustrophobic, but you’ll also want to consider movement restrictions stemming from a lower ceiling.
Experienced gym owners recommend a minimum of 15-foot-high ceilings, giving adequate space for things like rope climbs, wall balls and muscle-ups. If you’re able to score 20-foot-high ceilings, consider it a luxury. However, consider the maintenance as well: With 20 feet or more, you’ll likely have to rent a scissor lift for simple things like light bulb changes.
7. Bay Doors Add Benefits.
Although not a necessity for the perfect gym space, bay doors provide some extra benefits for training. First, they allow for some great air circulation and natural lighting. There’s nothing worse than the smell of sweat lingering in stale air.
Second, bay doors allow for additional gym programming options that are safe and manageable. By providing an easily-traversable indoor/outdoor workout area, programming can include things like running, sled drags, tire flips, etc.
8. Let The Light In.
Not only is natural light shown to boost various health markers, it can really enhance the feel of your gym location. You wouldn’t want to train in a dungeon and neither do your clients. Whether the light comes from the bay doors discussed above or lots of windows, resist the vampire vibe and let your light shine.
9. Shower Gym Members With Amenities.
No matter what fitness level people are, everyone’s workout ends the same way: With a shower. As minor as it may seem, members will value a clean, functional bathroom. The ability to shower is a bonus, especially for morning clients who have to go straight to work.
Multiple showers is obviously the best case scenario, but be realistic as you get started. Finding a facility with even one shower (or the option to build) will increase your gym’s viability.
10. Explore Your Running Routes.
If you plan to program running, rucking or sled drags for your members, it’s important to explore the routes. Client safety is of the utmost importance, and being easily navigable is a close second. These routes cannot be in high-traffic areas or anywhere where terrain could cause issues (i.e. potholes, barricades, etc.)
Find a facility where you can safely run with easily-designated 200 meter, 400 meter, 800 meter and one-mile courses.
BONUS: Designate A Treatment Room.
While you may not have a massage therapist, physiotherapist or nutritionist at your gym when you first open up, it’s a great option to be able to offer eventually.
If you find a location with a room or two available, you can sublease it out to other health practitioners who can offer complimentary services. This will lower your overhead and provide some value to your clients at the same time!
PRO TIP: Once you’ve found your perfect gym location, take the next step! Set up your gym management system by registering your FREE account here!
PushPress is a gym management software that is here to help you grow your fitness facility. With PushPress, you'll be able to manage classes and appointments, take payments, track attendance, manage leads and create an unforgettable member experience!