T Nation

Cost of Opening a Gym?

Any rough ideas on how much to open a gym?

I’ve seen the prices for some of the chain gyms that were in the low hundred-thousands, but I’m looking more for what it would cost (money and time wise) for a good sized, well equipped, but not top-of-the-line gym.

Just to throw numbers around and get an idea.

I’ve wanted to open my own gym for a long time, but the funds won’t be there, nor will the borrowing ability or business knowledge be there for a while.

Does having a business degree make it that much easier to get a loan?

i really would like to know that too… that idea is really interesting !

[quote]SWR-1240 wrote:
Any rough ideas on how much to open a gym?

I’ve seen the prices for some of the chain gyms that were in the low hundred-thousands, but I’d looking more for what it would cost (money and time wise) for a good sized, well equipped, but not top-of-the-line gym.

Just to throw numbers around and get an idea.

I’ve wanted to open my own gym for a long time, but the funds won’t be there, nor will the borrowing ability or business knowledge be there for a while.

Does having a business degree make it that much easier to get a loan?[/quote]

It is way too variable to give an exact cost. The actual nature of your planned gym will partly determine how much you would be spending.

If you are targeting T-Nation style members it wouldn’t have to be that expensive. Free weights, power racks, olympic bars and weights are a one time cost.

If you are targeting the general public, most will deck it out with treadmills, bikes, cross trainers and so on. These pieces of equipment are ongoing costs as most gyms lease them as they are many thousands of dollars each to buy and get out dated quickly.

It is not difficult for larger scale gyms to run into the half million dollar and above mark. Individual plasma screens on the treadmills will do that to you.

The size of your gym is another thing. Rental costs are very expensive and finding a suitable facility is another battle. Change rooms are the biggest pain in the arse. It is actually harder to find a rental property with suitable changing facilities than a facility with the right amount of floor space. Purpose built gym facilities are very hard to come by.

Give us a breakdown of the rough size, equipment and emphasis of the gym and location and it might be easier for some sort of ball park figure.

Great post though. I’ve worked/managed gyms for years and will open my own soon so I’d be interested to see what advice others come in with.

[quote]SWR-1240 wrote:
Any rough ideas on how much to open a gym?

I’ve seen the prices for some of the chain gyms that were in the low hundred-thousands, but I’m looking more for what it would cost (money and time wise) for a good sized, well equipped, but not top-of-the-line gym.

Just to throw numbers around and get an idea.

I’ve wanted to open my own gym for a long time, but the funds won’t be there, nor will the borrowing ability or business knowledge be there for a while.

Does having a business degree make it that much easier to get a loan?[/quote]

You don’t need a degree or even a lot of money. Go through CAPS or small business assoc. There is a lot of money out there available to the right people.

The right people:

you don’t need a degree, but you will need a businessplan or model to present to the people who may fund you. Passion will be important. There are programs available and you’d be surprised at the amount of people willing to give a chance to someone with a solid idea and visible passion.

A lot of research as well…demographics…accesability… poulation…how many gyms in the area. It seems to me finding the right location is just as challenging as generating/operating the business. You can have the greatest gym in the world, but if people don’t come…

[quote]Man O’ War wrote:

It is way too variable to give an exact cost. The actual nature of your planned gym will partly determine how much you would be spending.

If you are targeting T-Nation style members it wouldn’t have to be that expensive. Free weights, power racks, olympic bars and weights are a one time cost.

If you are targeting the general public, most will deck it out with treadmills, bikes, cross trainers and so on. These pieces of equipment are ongoing costs as most gyms lease them as they are many thousands of dollars each to buy and get out dated quickly.

It is not difficult for larger scale gyms to run into the half million dollar and above mark. Individual plasma screens on the treadmills will do that to you.

The size of your gym is another thing. Rental costs are very expensive and finding a suitable facility is another battle. Change rooms are the biggest pain in the arse. It is actually harder to find a rental property with suitable changing facilities than a facility with the right amount of floor space. Purpose built gym facilities are very hard to come by.

Give us a breakdown of the rough size, equipment and emphasis of the gym and location and it might be easier for some sort of ball park figure.

Great post though. I’ve worked/managed gyms for years and will open my own soon so I’d be interested to see what advice others come in with. [/quote]

Good points. I would have to sit down and really think about all the equipment I would want, and how many of each. I’d compare it to a few local gyms. Probably wouldn’t have as many cable machines, but wouldn’t neglect them completely.

I would have a bunch of treadmills, bikes and a few eliptical machines, and a few rowers for cardio.

I would like a lot of space, but don’t know what a lot of space is yet.

It would be nice to split up the gym in a few different sections, but not completely separate from each other. One section more pl friendly, one section more Olympic lifting friendly (all the bumper plates would be there and not allowed into the other parts of the gym) and one section with bb friendly equipment, almost in the same area as the pl friendly section.

There would still be a ton of stuff to think about, and I’d have to set priorities. I’d like to have it fully functional to start, and be able to add on throughout the years.

[quote]sasquatch wrote:

You don’t need a degree or even a lot of money. Go through CAPS or small business assoc. There is a lot of money out there available to the right people.

The right people:

you don’t need a degree, but you will need a businessplan or model to present to the people who may fund you. Passion will be important. There are programs available and you’d be surprised at the amount of people willing to give a chance to someone with a solid idea and visible passion.[/quote]

Thanks for the tip. I was thinking about checking into grant programs, and having my wife’s name be on the paperwork since she might be able to get more grant money being female and a minority.

Something we both thought about, and I know I can fully trust her, so there’s no issue there.

[quote]Jimfound wrote:
A lot of research as well…demographics…accesability… poulation…how many gyms in the area. It seems to me finding the right location is just as challenging as generating/operating the business. You can have the greatest gym in the world, but if people don’t come…[/quote]

Exactly. I heard Walmarts use some kind of software to lead them to the best places to put their super stores.

It would be nice to get a hold of something like that for a gym.

I’ve also had the idea of a T-Nation gym, where there would be articles posted on walls, and the whole theme would be like this site.

It could be sponsored by Biotest and I could sell exclusively Biotest products behind the counter.

It would make for a great chain of gyms in my opinion.

I’ve thought about having a commercial gym several times. The problem I have with them is there seem to be 2 successful models, neither of which I like.

1 Charge a relatively low rate <$40 a month and hope only about 20% of your customers come in regularly.

2 Charge a high rate $100 a month or so but you have to be super high end.

With the low price I feel like you have to sell memberships knowing that people won?t come in. In fact you don?t want most of the people to come in or you?ll need a bigger facility thereby increasing costs and not be able to make money.

For the high price option you need to target more well-to-do people and the gym can not really be set up for serious lifters. Generally, they would not go for a gym where a lot of the equipment is free weight based. Because of that I wouldn?t really want to be associated with that kind of gym.

An uncommon option that I would consider is a gym where ?skilled? personal training is the focus. You can start out small, stay fairly hard core and still generate a decent profit with margin on the training sessions. I think the key there is to limit the customers to only those that are buying training, at least a certain amount per month.

There was a guy I went to high school with, and his parents opened up a gym, from the ground up. The gym is about 50,000 square feet, and includes a cardio room and tanning beds. The equipment in the gym is older, but it still works.

The guy said approximately it cost $200,000 to get started. They bought the building, which was the bulk of the initial cost. It is initially more expensive, but saves you money in the long run, because you are not paying rent.

They opened the gym in 1997, so obviously, it will cost more now. The gym is nothing fancy, it has 6 TV’s, 20 cardio machines, dumbbells from 5 lbs - 120 lbs, and plenty of machines. So it is still a pretty high startup cost, even for a basic gym. It depends on what amenities you want to have in the gym.

You don’t need a college degree to be a better businessman or get a better loan. You need to have a great idea, preferably typed up, and sell the SBA or whomever on why they should give you money. Hope this helps.

[quote]SWR-1240 wrote:

Good points. I would have to sit down and really think about all the equipment I would want, and how many of each. I’d compare it to a few local gyms. Probably wouldn’t have as many cable machines, but wouldn’t neglect them completely.
[/quote]

If you are looking to start this gym in your local area I would be having a look at the machines that are most used in the local gyms and those that gather dust. That might give you an indication of what you need at your gym.

I worked at a gym that was set up by a guy with only bodybuilding in mind. He fluked it and it became hugely popular with the general public. We only had 2 treadmills in a facility the size of 2 basketball courts.

Membership sold like hot cakes but the biggest reason prospective members didn’t join was the lack of treadmills. The bottom line is that people want them.

Great idea. That can lead to less clashes of personality and etc. General members often crack the shits with PL’s and BB’s monopolising equipment as they want it for 2 sets of 15 then piss off.

[quote]
There would still be a ton of stuff to think about, and I’d have to set priorities. I’d like to have it fully functional to start, and be able to add on throughout the years.[/quote]

The main thing is you target market. If you want masses, a T-Nation style gym would probably not be the best idea.

If you want it on a smaller scale, however, the T-Nation style gym could create quite a niche in the market.

[quote]SWR-1240 wrote:
Jimfound wrote:
A lot of research as well…demographics…accesability… poulation…how many gyms in the area. It seems to me finding the right location is just as challenging as generating/operating the business. You can have the greatest gym in the world, but if people don’t come…

Exactly. I heard Walmarts use some kind of software to lead them to the best places to put their super stores.

It would be nice to get a hold of something like that for a gym.[/quote]

at my university, we have a GIS major, which is, dont quote me on this, geographic information systems? anywho, they have their own computer lab, but all of their pc’s have a software program installed that would be very valuable to ppl such as yourself. .

you can pick and choose all the different search criteria i.e. income levels, age brackets, # of ppl in household, distance to point a or b, etc. anyways, it maps it all out for you. as a social work major, it was helpful for us, because we could link people up with services close to their homes and what not. anyways, your local university’s computer lab may be a start.

the librarians in there usually are bored to death, ours are anyway, and are eager to help people out. they could probably show you some helpful things. good luck!

SWR - Are you looking to start your own gym from the ground up or buy into a franchise? Either way, you may want to look into the Fitness 19 business model - no pools, saunas, or hot tubs, and no shower facilities. Just some lockers to store basic belonging and one-toilet restrooms to take a pee.

Located in strip malls in residential areas, the idea being that if you’re located close to where people live, they’ll come in, work out, then go home to take care of showering and other hygiene matters.

I think it’s a smart idea that would save a bunch on expenses, not to mention limiting the liability from Ima Moron who slipped in our shower and is now suing your ass because of it.

The cost depends on, of course, what kind of equipment you want, what clientele you seek and location, among other things. These are all related.

As a former gym owner, I can emphatically state that if you want to keep your doors open, you MUST have quality cardio equipment and plenty of it. This will be a huge draw to your business whether the members want to lift weights or not. This will also be a huge up front cost.

You might want to install a few tv’s in the cardio section. The hardcore spit-in-the-floor type gyms (my preference) such as the one in the animal-pak ads, have pretty much gone the way of the dinosaurs. There are a few still around but they’re the exceptions.

If your interests lean toward the fitness crowd then I would suggest selectorized machines such as Icarian (read:expensive). These folks generally just want to come in, do their cardio and maybe go through a training circuit without having to change plates. They don’t really want to pull 45 lb. plates off a bar that were left by the previous lifter or train next to big, sweaty, intimidating guys.

You’ll need mirrors and carpeting or mats on the floor. Equipment color should probably be white, to give the place a “clean” appearance. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in the bodybuilding/powerlifting crowd, equipment should be much cheaper. You’ll still need the cardio and some machines.

There is a thread somewhere here at T-Nation where a guy spent, I think, about $13,000 on equipment at Elite Fitness for home use. What he listed was better than most gyms I’ve been to. You’d probably want to double up on some of the pieces such as benches, bars, etc.

Depending on the size of your gym, I’d suggest at least 2000 lbs. of plates, probably more. That’s not including DB’s. I have over 1000 lbs. in my garage gym and am glad for the extra weight. Not including cardio, I’d estimate $20,000 to $25,000, maybe more, to have a commercial setup such as this. I built a lot of my equipment and everyone thought it was commercially built.

You can save yourself a lot of money this way. Ideally, if you could manage to combine the two crowds, you’d have a much better chance of success. In my opinion, the best way to accomplish this is to have a hardcore/freeweight area off to itself, if room allows.

Other things to consider are insurance, staffing, bookkeeping, child care, personal training and maybe 24 hr. access. You should plan on devoting a lot of time to your endeavor . If you just want a good place to train, consider pooling your resources with about 10 other guys and perhaps rent a building for your own private gym. There’s an article on this very thing at EliteFTS.com. A business course would definitely be helpful.

Sorry for not giving you exact estimates but once you know what you want, costs will be easier to figure. Maybe other gym owners can give you more input. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something so feel free to PM me.

[quote]SWR-1240 wrote:
I’ve also had the idea of a T-Nation gym, where there would be articles posted on walls, and the whole theme would be like this site.

It could be sponsored by Biotest and I could sell exclusively Biotest products behind the counter.

It would make for a great chain of gyms in my opinion.[/quote]

That’s one hell of a good idea. You’ll need to put an octagon in there, and every Saturday night they’ll be UFC-style grudge match between those of us who favor full-body training and those who favor split routines. You’ll also need to have kettlebells in your gym, just to piss off TC!

Seriously, that’s a cool idea.

[quote]MikeTheBear wrote:
SWR - Are you looking to start your own gym from the ground up or buy into a franchise? Either way, you may want to look into the Fitness 19 business model - no pools, saunas, or hot tubs, and no shower facilities. Just some lockers to store basic belonging and one-toilet restrooms to take a pee.

Located in strip malls in residential areas, the idea being that if you’re located close to where people live, they’ll come in, work out, then go home to take care of showering and other hygiene matters.

I think it’s a smart idea that would save a bunch on expenses, not to mention limiting the liability from Ima Moron who slipped in our shower and is now suing your ass because of it.[/quote]

Ground up, but may depend on how much a franchise would let me do on my own.

I hear that Powerhouses give quite a bit of leaniency with their gym (at least that’s what an owner in Philly told me once).

I don’t want a fitness club. I’d prefer something simmilar to the Powerhouse gym I went to in Philadelphia, PA; or maybe even like Albany Strength, but larger.

I wouldn’t mind starting off with a good size and adding on over the years though.

[quote]SWR-1240 wrote:
Exactly. I heard Walmarts use some kind of software to lead them to the best places to put their super stores.

It would be nice to get a hold of something like that for a gym.[/quote]

I wish something like that existed. I think most gym owners/managers would use their gut instinct mixed with a bit of research.

If I were opening a gym, I would have a look at the type of economic situation the town/suburb/city. If there is low unemployment and house prices high, the people would hopefully have higher paying jobs and more disposable income.

Another thing I would look at is recreational physical activity. If the recreational sports are popular and many sporting clubs exist, I would take the gamble that the area is healthy and active.

A town/suburb with fuck all going on physically, would have my guy tell me that it is probably not going to work.