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olympic legacy

In addition to the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre’s other amenities, there’s also a leisure pool, beach area and spa complex

The approach to membership and pricing is very

interesting. You don’t have to be a member to use the facilities, and casual usage is consequently high. There’s also no requirement for an induction, which again encourages casual drop-in usage. Meanwhile, where the average membership fee for local private sector clubs would be around AUS$1,000 for 12 months (equivalent to around £650), the aquatic centre charges around AUS$900 a year, or AUS$60–80 a month. However, in sharp contrast to the UK, less than 10 per cent of members pay monthly, with operators typically offering a discount of one month on annual membership options. Another interesting pricing policy is to give a loyalty discount on renewal of three-, six- and 12- month memberships of up to 15 per cent. Matt Hilder, health club and customer service

manager, is keen to add value for those who do take up gym membership. “Every member gets a personal birthday card by post, and members also get discounts at the café, on personal training and in the sports shop,” he says. “Then, every three months, there’s a free seasonal breakfast, and just before Christmas we hold a member appreciation week. There’s a Christmas party with lots of giveaways, and an award for the male and female members of the year. We really value the social side of our membership offering.” Every member is also entitled to a fi tness assessment

and programme, which is incorporated into the membership package – Gold or Silver, depending on how much support a member wants/needs. Silver members get reviews every six months, while Gold members are reviewed every three months.

tapping new markets The gym membership base is very family-focused, mainly thanks to the pools, which naturally attract this market – the majority of members are aged between 25 and 45. This in comparison to the local Fitness First, for example, where members are discernibly younger. Hilder is also busy developing a schools programme

for the gym, as childhood obesity is an even bigger issue in Australia than in the UK – in fact, surprisingly given our perceptions of the Australians as an active nation, it’s only just behind America in the world obesity league.

“Childhood obesity is a major problem and we’re part of the lifelong solution. Even here in Australia, with our great climate and outdoor sporting environment, kids are spending more time on PCs and watching TV. Diet is also an issue. Participation levels might be higher, but obesity is an increasing problem,” says Hilder.

36 Indeed, although the café at the centre was

buzzing while I was there, it was interesting to note that Australian facility managers face the same challenge as UK operators in educating their customers about healthy eating. “We’ve tried on several occasions to promote healthy eating through a ‘healthy eating pod’, but still the best selling item is hot chips,” says Hilder. Nevertheless, he reports a great reaction to the schools programme, with demand outstripping supply. Meanwhile, the pool is a major regional destination,

which has positive spin-offs for the rest of the facilities at the complex, as Coggan explains: “We’re an ‘icon venue’ in terms of swimming and we use those facilities and our name to draw people in. Australia is famous for the number of outdoor pools, as well as its fabulous beaches, but many people like the controlled indoor environment. It’s also easy to get here and we have free parking. The beaches aren’t always easy to get to and then parking is a nightmare – they’re really for people who want to spend four or fi ve hours there, rather than just going for a swim.”

sharing expertise In terms of lessons for London, with the 2012 Games and their Legacy very much on the agenda, there’s much to be gained from sharing ideas with UK operators. Indeed, the Sydney Aquatic Centre has a very active exchange programme with our very own GLL (Greenwich Leisure Ltd), with staff of all levels spending time at the partner organisation. “We have two primary aims,” explains GLL’s

director of development Chris Symons. “Firstly, to grow internally the understanding and expertise required for Olympic aquatics competitions in preparation for our intended involvement in 2012; and secondly to train a managerial team conversant with international and televised aquatic events.” But the learning goes both ways, with the Sydney

Aquatic Centre team emphasising the value of insights gained into GLL’s member journey, wellness concept and retention strategies. Coggan explains: “The exchange programme has been one of the best learning tools over the last few years: GLL’s experience in member retention has helped us improve our own retention over the last 12 months by around 8 per cent, from 47 per cent to 55 per cent.” mike hill

Read Health Club Management online at july 2010 © cybertrek 2010

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