Springfield, MO

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The Springfield area market is still 'working out' for the locally owned health clubs

by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

During the 15 years he's owned Ozark Fitness Centers, Dan Martin has seen a lot of gyms come and go in Springfield.

During that time however, Ozark Fitness has added another location, expanded the services it offers and continued to attract new members.

Before starting Ozark Fitness, Martin and his wife, Jeanie, owned two gyms in Kansas City. They moved to Springfield in 1983 and bought Ozark Gymnastics Empire, which had been in business since 1973.

Martin and his wife stopped offering gymnastics, changed the name to Ozark Fitness Center and set out to convert the 18,000 square foot facility at 1249 E. Battlefield into a full-service gym. In 1986, they added a second, 15,000-square-foot gym, now located at 2610 N. Glenstone.

Currently, Martin is working with architects to develop a set of blueprints to expand and remodel the Battlefield facility. According to Martin, the remodel will help accommodate the increasing number of members who use the facility on Springfield's growing south side.

"One of the bigger challenges we've faced is adding equipment and changing our facilities," Martin said. "It use to be that you got some weights, an aerobic area and you were cooking. Now, the big trends are water aerobics and cardiovascular training."

Instructors at each location hold 26 water aerobics classes each week, according to Martin. Each facility also has a cardiovascular workout area, which contains treadmills, exercise bicycles and rowing machines.

"This is a capital-intensive business," Martin said. "The average piece of cardiovascular equipment costs about $6,000. Right now, I have 80 pieces of cardiovascular equipment at both locations. In 1988, I only had 12 pieces."

In addition to water aerobics and cardiovascular training, Ozark Fitness offers a wide variety of services including free child care, nutritional programs, traditional aerobics and fitness programs for seniors. Members can get advice from a personal trainer, use tanning facilities or relax in the whirlpool or sauna. There's also a separate work-out area for women.

"About 62 percent of our members are women," Martin said. "But we have a wide a range of customers. We're really a middle-of-the road gym. We have a little bit of something for everybody. In the morning, you can come in here and find 80-year-olds working out in the pool and 18-year-olds lifting weights."

To accommodate members' diverse schedules, both Ozark Fitness Centers are open seven days a week and keep extended hours. According to Martin, both locations get a lot of use. On average, a member of Ozark Fitness uses the gym 83 times a year while the national average is 77 times per year, Martin said.

"We have 13,000 members right now and 50 employees, which is an all-time high," Martin said.

"Our Battlefield location just picked up another 500 members when Medifit closed recently."

According to Martin, around 32 fitness centers have come and gone in Springfield in the last 25 years. When three of the gyms closed 24-Hour Nautilus, Cosmopolitan Health Spas and Medifit Ozark Fitness offered a special deal that allowed members to transfer their memberships, Martin said.

"Anytime a health club closes, it just gives the whole industry a black eye," Martin said. "Honoring another club's membership, like Medifit, is really about restoring goodwill. We didn't have to offer Medifit members a special deal, but we hope that once members transfer, they will sign up with us again when their old membership expires."

To attract new members, Martin runs both radio and TV ads. Having a competitive pricing structure also helps attract business, according to Martin. Currently, it costs $1 to enroll at Ozark Fitness, and monthly membership fees are $29.

"Our goal is to increase revenues by 5 percent each year and continue to expand," Martin said. "I feel like our two locations one on the south side and one on the north side pretty much cover the city. I doubt we'll add any new locations in Springfield, but we are looking at other markets."


Management style:

"We try to keep it fun."

Year Founded: 1983

Address and phone number:

2610 N. Glenstone, 865-1500 and 1249 E. Battlefield, 883-6105

Owners: Dan and Jeanie Martin


Cardio theater enables members to watch television or listen to music while exercising on treadmills, bicycles or rowing machines.


William Caswell and Sandy Jemison, members at Ozark Fitness, exercise in the fitness center's "cardio theater." [[In-content Ad]]


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