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Local clubs gain, lose members from new YMCA

February 04, 2002

Local clubs gain, lose members from new YMCA



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


While Hagerstown YMCA membership continues to grow, owners and managers of some local health clubs say they are gaining new members who have left the YMCA for a variety of reasons.

Hagerstown YMCA membership has grown by about 2,400 people since the $7.1 million Richard A. Henson Family YMCA complex opened Dec. 3, 2001, Executive Director Michael Flicek said Friday.

It has a total of 6,200 members, he said.

There were 2,800 Hagerstown YMCA members in 1996 and there were about 3,800 in late November 2001, he said.

The one-story YMCA on Eastern Boulevard replaced the downtown six-story building.

Flicek said there always will be some YMCA members who quit. About 60 percent of those who leave do so because they don't use the facility as much as planned, he said. Others leave because they are moving or for health reasons, he said.

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But he is unaware of anyone leaving to go to other health clubs, he said.

Flicek said he does not think fees increased in September 2001 - an average $8-per-month hike - has deterred new members or caused any to leave. Those who can't afford the membership can apply to get financial aid from the YMCA, he said.

But Nica Sutch, owner of 4-Star Athletic Complex in Williamsport, said the health club has gained about six former YMCA members, some of whom cited the membership fees increase.

They have lost about 10 members to the YMCA, she said.

Lori Thomas, owner of the Sports Connection Health and Fitness Center, said the health club has not lost anyone to the new YMCA.

However, they have gained more than 10 new members since the YMCA opened in December, she said.

Some of those are former YMCA members who switched because the new YMCA does not have an indoor track, as the old one did. Sports Connection has an indoor track.

Flicek said there was a finite amount of space and money at the YMCA and so it was decided not to have a track.

When one health club or gym opens and there is publicity about it, it tends to spark more membership at all health clubs, Thomas said.

Flicek agreed, saying he has noticed that phenomenon before. When a new health club opens, YMCA membership sometimes grows as a result, he said.

Gold's Gym manager Eric Easton said the gym has lost about 10 members to the new YMCA.

The gym also gained about five new members, because they said they liked that the gym had more equipment and shorter lines than the YMCA, he said.

Flicek said he has not heard complaints about insufficient equipment but that the YMCA is buying four more treadmills.

Easton said gym employees have noticed potential new members usually want to see both the YMCA facility and the Gold's Gym facility before making a decision.

They see each potential member as someone Gold's must impress more than the YMCA, he said.

Frank Thomas, owner of Sports Inn Racquet and Health Club of Greencastle, Pa., said about seven people left his gym to join the YMCA.

Four of them later came back, he said.

Phil Physioc, owner of Fitness Priority Inc., said he has gained about three former YMCA members who left expressing frustration about cost and proximity to their homes.

But his business lost more than 10 members to the YMCA, he said.

It's hard to compete with such a large organization, he said. It forces gyms like his to try to just be the best they can, he said.

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