The Last Day
Saturday morning came too fast for me. The conference and trade show were a whirlwind for me, but I knew I needed to get up for one last day and my last visits before heading home.
My first responsibility for the day was to get the Lifetime Achievement Award shipped to Rick Caro's office in New York. I didn't want him to have to lug the heavy crystal award home in his suitcase. Unfortunately, an open FedEx Kinko's on a Saturday morning is a bit of a rarity in downtown Chicago so I decided my best option was to take the award home and ship it from the office on Monday.
I arrived at the convention center at 10 am and promptly headed to our booth. We ran out of magazines the day before so I neatly stacked subscription forms and pens on our tables, trying to fill up the blank tabletops.
Chris Palumbo of Elements stopped by our booth. I had met him at Club Industry East 2005 in New York. He updated me about his clubs, which are expanding in several cities. Not only is a club open in Atlanta, but they are opening one in Chicago soon, too. They have 30 clubs sold at this point (some in London). The clubs are upscale, women-only facilities that offer lifestyle coaching in addition to fitness. Women can purchase several sessions with a lifestyle coach and either learn about fitness or nutrition during their sessions. Some of the coaches even take a group of women to the local health food store to teach them about healthy eating and shopping.
I then stopped by the Checkfree booth to visit with Randy Ivey, the marketing guru at Checkfree. We discussed the show and the new booth that Checkfree had in place this year. It had a modern yet retro feel to it with vibrant greens and yellows and some cool black couches. Checkfree's advertising campaign hints that the company is introducing something big in March 2007. They even handed out small containers of breath mints that included a quote from Hank Aaron that said, "The pitcher only had a ball. I had a bat." Then the copy read: "We make the biggest bat. Coming March 2007." I'm interested in seeing what they'll be introducing. In the meantime, the mints were tasty and handy!
My last stop for the day on the show floor was at the CSI Software booth where I had hoped to meet with Andy Wigderson, vice president of sales and marketing, but he had already left for the day so I left my business card with one of his associates.
It was about time for me to leave anyway so I prepared booth take-down instructions for Matt Sinkovich, our sales rep and a resident of Chicago, who bravely volunteered to stay until the booth was properly labeled for shipping.
Then, Kelly Cartwright of XSport Fitness, which is based in Chicago, stopped by and we headed out of the convention center to visit one of the XSport facilities. I met Kelly at the Club Industry East show in Philadelphia this past summer, and I let her know that I wanted to visit one of their clubs in Chicago during the Club Industry show. XSport is holding a grand opening of its first New York facility later this week (which I regrettably can't make) and they are expanding elsewhere in the Northeast, too. They were exhibiting at the show looking for personal trainers, managers and other staff.
After struggling to make it out of the convention center with my large suitcase, we finally made it to the valet parking area at the Hyatt hotel and then jumped in Kelly's car for the 30-minute drive to XSport's newest club. I was surprised when I walked into the facility. Despite Kelly's insistence that the club was upscale, the name to me implied a young, hip club with extreme-type sports options inside. However, when I walked inside, I was greeted with a sophisticated, upscale decor. The floor was a dark, multi-colored and natural-looking tile. The walls were medium-toned taupe with specially painted murals in taupes and reds by a local artist. Each piece of cardio equipment had its own personal viewing screen. The three-lane lap pool looked like it belonged in a spa--as did the whirlpool. The locker rooms greet members with a glass chandelier and two chairs in the entryway and dark wood lockers and bowl-style sinks inside. The play area for children had a multi-level climbing area with tunnels and bridges plus video games and a television and craft items. Kelly said that some of the members have told her that they've joined this gym because their children loved the play area. Her five-year old son also loves to play here. Then Kelly took me to the hair salon and spa area, which I would have loved to have lounged in, especially when I saw one woman getting a foot massage (my feet were calling out for one after three days on the trade show floor!). Unfortunately, I didn't have the time.
Kelly said hello to everyone she came into contact with at the club. She mentioned that they have a rule that whenever a staff member comes within a few feet of someone, they must say hello. I thought that made for a friendly atmosphere in the club.
Once the tour was complete, Kelly whisked me off to the airport in her Passat and we chatted some more about the industry and the history of XSport, which was founded by Kelly's brother Dan. She takes a lot of pride in the accomplishment of her little brother, who started with one small club in Chicago and now owns 19 facilities (they've made our magazine's Top 100 club list for the past several years).
We arrived at the airport and my time in Chicago drew to an end as I boarded the plane for my flight home. It was once again a busy but enjoyable trip. I never fail to meet interesting people and learn a tremendous amount by visiting the exhibitors, talking with club owners and sitting in on seminars. I was glad that on this trip I was also able to fit in two club visits. I would have to say though that the highlight of the trip was presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to Rick Caro and listening to his acceptance speech and the keynote address by Gayle Sayers. Both are very nice men who have accomplished much in their respective careers and have remained humble about it.
I'm looking forward to next year's Club Industry show in Chicago. It will once again be in October. Check out http://clubindustryshow.com/national/ to find the exact dates for next year's show. In the meantime, get ready for Club Industry East, which will be held June 7-9, 2007 in Orlando, FL. You can view details here: http://www.clubindustryshow.com/east/. We hope to do another blog for that show, so stay tuned!