The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.

 

 



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Tuesday
Apr222014

Fore Court Racquet & Fitness has been ‘community’ for 40 years

What does it take to successfully operate a tennis and health club for 40 years?

A good facility, great programs, excellent service, and, oh, yes, a 30-year membership in IHRSA doesn’t hurt either.

In 1973, the late Maurice “Moe” Morin, driven by a vision to create a tennis facility that catered to the needs of the entire community, founded the Fore Court Racquet and Fitness Club, Inc., an eight-court club in Cumberland, Rhode Island. Acutely aware of the benefits of “success by association”—specifically, the resources offered by professional industry organizations—he promptly joined the New England Lawn Tennis Association (NELTA), the New England Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (NEHRSA), and, in 1983, IHRSA.

Neither he nor his heirs have ever had occasion to second-guess either his vision or his decision.

Today, despite the changes, challenges, and travails occasioned by four decades, Fore Court remains a thriving, 70,000-square-foot operation with 800 tennis members, who pay $185 annually plus court-time fees, and 1,200 fitness members, with memberships priced at $40 per month for singles, and $75 monthly for families.

Fore Court Racquet and Fitness also enjoys the distinction of being the only multipurpose tennis and fitness center in Rhode Island.

Among the keys to the club’s vigor and longevity are its ability to adapt to shifting market conditions; innovate effectively; produce consistent growth; maintain strong community support; make wise use of the resources offered by IHRSA; and, perhaps most importantly, keep Morin’s vision alive.

All of his seven children helped at Fore Court when they were younger, but two of his sons, David and Brian, eventually assumed full-time roles—David as president, and Brian as vice president. Maurice passed away in 2010, but the values and standards he personified live on in the club’s DNA. “One of our greatest successes has been our ability to transfer ownership from one generation to the next,” observes David. “It’s great to still be here after 40 years.”

Roots and renewal

Fore Court has made and mastered history for 40 years by being an integral part of, and constantly responding to, changes in the communities that it belongs to—both its geographical and professional families. Alert to consumers’ evolving needs and expectations, and attentive to industry trends and developments, it added 10 racquetball courts in 1978 to capitalize on the boom in that sport. Then, in 1985, it removed and decked over two of those courts and installed 16 pieces of Nautilus strength-training equipment and three Lifecycle stationary exercise bikes.

Eventually, to accommodate the growing interest in fitness, the club transformed five more racquetball courts into a 10,000-square-foot fitness center, a 2,500-square-foot group exercise studio, and a group cycling room with 25 bikes. “We were the first club in Rhode Island to offer Les Mills BODYPUMP classes,” David points out, “and we currently have 10 Les Mills formats on our weekly schedule of 60 group exercise classes.”

Among the clubs’ many other amenities are two outdoor volleyball courts, whirlpools and steam rooms, massage services, a pro shop, childcare, and a lounge area where members can enjoy free coffee or tea, or relax with a glass of beer or wine.

Innovation and differentiation may define and drive the club’s growth, but its roots—tennis, families, and the greater Cumberland community—remain firmly anchored. Strong, fun-oriented children’s and youth tennis programming keeps more than 350 kids busy at any point in time. “Quite often, parents who don’t play will start because they see how much fun their children are having,” reports tennis director Charlie Michaelman, a Fore Court employee for nearly 17 years. That, in turn, has a positive impact on sales and retention.

“Word-of-mouth,” he attests, “is one of the best ways to get new members.”

“Because we’ve been a part of this community for 40 years, we’re very ingrained in its activities, particularly its programs for youth,” explains David. The club also hosts a graduation party each year for some 250 high school seniors, donates to raffles, and recently hosted a senior luncheon for more than 75 people over the age of 65.

Sharing and succeeding

The Morins have been equally committed to and involved in their professional fraternity, understanding the rewards, both personal and commercial, that can flow from efficient networking and loyal, long-term relationships. The philosophy and practice were instituted by Maurice, who connected early on with a number of accomplished industry colleagues via NELTA. Among them were John McCarthy, the executive director emeritus of IHRSA; Todd Pulis, the owner of The Thoreau Club, in Concord, Massachusetts, and one of the founders of IHRSA; and Lloyd Gainsboro, the director of business development for the Dedham Health and Athletic Complex, in Dedham, Massachusetts.

“My dad believed in sharing information for the good of the industry, and introduced me to many great club professionals throughout New England,” says David, who served as the Rhode Island representative to NEHRSA for 13 years.

 “IHRSA has had a significant impact on Fore Court—not only though the people it’s introduced us to, but also through its educational and informational articles, seminars, conventions, trade shows, and research publications, which we utilize as a benchmark for our business,” explains David. “By making use of its Employee Compensation & Benefits Report, it’s easy for us to ascertain how we’re doing in terms of our compensation plans. We also can compare our member attrition to industry averages.”

Two IHRSA booklets—Why People Stay and Why People Quit, both of which address retention—have proven particularly useful. “I show these booklets to all of our new hires, because they explain the challenges that health clubs face, and offer valuable insights into what our members are thinking,” says David. “These publications have helped us with our tours and how we position club membership.”

David is equally appreciative of and enthusiastic about the IHRSA convention and trade show, which he and several of his newer employees will be attending this month in San Diego, California. “I want them to see how much passion the people in this industry have,” he explains. “You have thousands of people, from all over the world, all working for the same purpose. The aura around this show is electric!

“Although I’ve been in the industry for more than 28 years, I’m still learning new things to better manage my business, employees, and programs.”

 

 

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