Finding a suitable location will likely be the hardest part of your initial phases. This article contains all the pitfalls and things to know about location hunting.
There’s much more to finding a finding a perfect location that just a big open space. Find out the key details and considerations that will make your spot the talk of the town.
How hard can finding a facility for my gym be? I just need a big warehouse space, and that’s it.
You’re right: It doesn’t seem like rocket science. However, there are many nuances to consider when it comes to selecting a location and a facility for your gym that you may never have thought about before. Here are our top 10 tips:
It goes without saying, you need to make sure you find a space in your town/city that is zoned for a fitness facility. You’d be surprised how many people rent a space and then realize they can’t get a business license for a fitness facility in that area of the city.
Depending on your city zoning, you might have to get a conditional use permit for your business. This can be a time consuming and expensive process.
Many cities also have stringent parking requirements on fitness facilities, so you’ll neeed to also research that. Some cities require as much as 8 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gym floor – so you can see how that can add up quick.
In other words, take the time to do your research into your city’s bylaws; sometimes they’re more restrictive than you ever could have imagined.
Talk to any gym owner and they’ll tell you the fitness industry is a competitive one, and it’s becoming more and more competitive every year.
Though you might want a space within walking distance of your house or right downtown where you’re sure to get foot traffic, do your research to find out how saturated the area already is with various fitness facilities.
Check out all fitness-related businesses within a mile or two of where you intend to open. Even if you can eventually beat everyone else out based on the excellence of your product, you might as well make your life easier when you first open up and be the only fitness facility on the block.
On the flipside, it’s worth positioning yourself near a physiotherapy, chiropractic or massage therapy clinic, as it’s a great opportunity to forge a relationship with another health practitioner with whom you can create a referral culture.
Although gym owners warn not to rent too big of a facility right off the bat before you have the client base, you also don’t want to rent a facility that you’re going to outgrow within a year. Finding that perfect balance between the two is key.
Moving locations is expensive, so find a space with adequate square footage that will allow you to grow for three to five years before you’re going to need to think about upgrading your square footage.
Best case scenario is to find a facility with the potential to expand without moving locations (i.e. by taking over the space next-door when you’re ready).
As a general rule, most gym owners agree you need about 100-125 square feet of space for each member. Obviously this depends on the workout, but as a general rule it’s pretty solid advice. Thus, 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 it depends on the workout, but it’s a good starting point.
Not only are rope climbs next to useless in a facility with 10-foot ceilings, they also make the facility feel cramped and claustrophobic. Current gym owners say 15-foot ceilings are a minimum requirement and 20-foot ceilings or higher are a luxury you’d be happy to have.
One thing to consider with higher ceilings is all maintenance and improvements will be more costly and time intensive. If you have 20 foot or higher ceilings, you will likely have to rent a scissor lift to do simple things like changing light bulbs.
Countless gym owners have been kicked out of their facilities within the first few months for making too much noise (anything from playing music too loudly to dropping weights). We even heard about one gym owner who opened up on top of a bookstore, and whenever the athletes dropped weights, books fell off the shelves in the bookstore below. Needless to say, he had to find a new location in a hurry.
Once again, do your research, get to know your neighbors, and ensure you’re selecting a facility where loud music, noise, and vibrations from dropping weights won’t be a problem for your neighbors or landlords.
To compound things, neighbors can be a problem even if they’re across the street or down the road. If your location borders a residential area, you could be in for big trouble if your neighbors don’t appreciate the noise or potential vibrations coming from your facility.
Bay doors help with all-important air circulation—there’s nothing worse than a stale-aired, chalky, sweat-smelling gym. Plus, it allows you to include more running in your programming in a safe and manageable way (you’d be surprised how many human collisions can happen going through standard doorways).
Basement gym? No thank you. Nobody wants to train in a dungeon. Find a space with lots of natural light.
Your clients will already be paying a lot to train at your facility. They don’t need to be paying more for parking. Worse still is when there’s no parking at all and they’re forced to circle the block for 15 minutes looking for a spot and end up frustrated and late for training.
Find a facility with a plethora of available free parking. It makes more of a difference than you think, gym owners say. Plus, as stated above, you might be forced to find a decent amount of parking due to city zoning.
As silly as it sounds, people value a clean, classy, functional bathroom with the ability to shower after a workout. This is especially important for morning clients, who have to race off to work right after their workout.
Best case scenario, you have at least two or three shower options for men, and two or three for women, so they don’t have to fight to get clean after class.
Finding a facility with showers (or the option to build), will increase the number of potential clients who will consider your gym as a viable option.
If your gym requires the use of outside fitness areas, make sure the facility can accommodate this. In the spring and summer months, sometimes it’s a refreshing change to head outside and work out in the sun.
Some gyms, like CrossFit gyms, do a decent amount of running. If you need running to be incorporated into your workouts, find a facility where you can safely run on the street with easily designated 200 meter, 400 meter, 800 meter and 1-mile courses.
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!