European News: Work Begins on the World’s ‘Largest’ Gym

    The world’s largest fitness center is in the works in Germany, Denmark gyms see biz changeups, and American franchises make their way across the pond.

    In Europe, two industry leaders are embarking on a futuristic venture. Meanwhile, a capital fund group acquired Fitness dk, Denmark’s second-largest club chain, for $11 million, and U.S. businesses are finding success in the U.K.

    MIRAI, ‘The Future,’ Unfolds in Germany

    This fall, two European industry leaders conducted a series of workshops in Germany to discuss a futuristic new venture. Rainer Schaller, the founder and CEO of McFit, Europe’s biggest club chain, and Ralph Scholz, the former event director for FIBO, teamed up to help bring their idea to fruition.

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    The MIRAI project gets rolling.

    The project goes by the name of MIRAI. The word, which means “the future” in Japanese, couldn’t be more apt. The venture will not only create the world’s largest fitness center, but also will utilize one of its most unique business models, according to project managers.

    When completed in late 2019 or early 2020, MIRAI will be a 590,000-square-foot facility that’s designed to encompass “all things fitness related.” Situated in Oberhausen, Germany, it will offer state-of-the-art workout amenities, plus an academic campus, and areas for the use of special events, fitness startups, and healthcare professionals. Individuals will be allowed to train for free, with revenues generated via sponsorships and other forms of partnerships.

    The concept was introduced at a B2B event in Oberhausen last July, and over 60 parties have already signed letters of intent expressing their intention to participate financially. The fall workshops with those prospective partners examined their needs and those of MIRAI’s customers, and explored topics such as education, innovation, technology, and research and development. Next year, additional workshops will flesh out other details.

    SATS Elixia Acquires Fitness DK

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    Fitness DK was acquired by the Altor and TryghedsGruppen capital fund group.

    The Altor and TryghedsGruppen capital fund group has acquired Fitness dk, Denmark’s second-largest club chain, for $11 million.

    The purchase adds 47 facilities to the group’s fitness holdings, which also includes SATS Elixia, with 200 units in Sweden, Norway, and Finland, serving some 560,000 members.

    Fitness dk, a troubled brand that lost $15.2 million before taxes in 2016, was divested by Parken Sport & Entertainment (PSE), a Danish company that owns the F.C. Copenhagen football club.

    The acquisition will solidify SATS’ dominance in the Nordic markets, and secure Fitness dk’s hold on the No. 2 position in Denmark; Fitness World is the country’s largest club chain.

    “Fitness dk is a good match for SATS, which is already the Nordic region’s largest in training centers,” says Olav Thorstad, the CEO of the SATS group. “We aim at the quality segment, making Fitness dk the right partner for us in Denmark.”

    U.S. Franchises Test European Waters in the U.K.

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    Anytime Fitness 150th U.K. site.

    A growing number of U.S.- based fitness franchises interested in establishing a European presence tested the water this year by either opening clubs in the U.K. or expanding their footprint there.

    A number of factors make the U.K. an attractive test market for brands with European ambitions. Among them: a business-friendly environment; a high club-penetration rate (15%); a growing demand for budget and boutique facilities; and the high quality of prospective franchisees.

    Anytime Fitness, an early player in the U.K., already has 150 sites, and has announced its intention to have 400 by 2020.

    Among the other brands are Snap Fitness, which reached 44 locations in 2017, and plans to double that number by the end of the year; Orangetheory Fitness, with three sites, which this year signed two master franchise agreements to create 110 new ones; and Cyclebar, the cycling concept owned by Xponential Fitness, which opened its first studio in London last fall, and intends to open at least 30 more in the U.K. over the next five years.

    Author avatar

    Florian Cartoux @florian_cartoux

    Florian Cartoux is director of the IHRSA European office in Brussels, Belgium. He's is in charge of growing IHRSA's membership in Europe, and attendance at IHRSA events. Being fluent in French, German, and English, Florian spends the best part of his time visiting the four corners of Europe meeting members and prospects. In his spare time, he tries to find time to play the drums, and be a good dad with his two daughters.