Gyms benefit from summer camp attendance

YMCA, other workout centers use short-term programs to offset summer membership slumps.


Many health clubs struggle to maintain memberships through the summer, but day camps are a good way to keep interest in a facility.

The Springfield Family YMCA, 300 S. Limestone St. has had one of its more successful summer camp seasons, and four weeks are still left in the season.

“It gives us a chance to reach more folks and is a huge service,” said Vince Chase, CEO of the YMCA.

According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, summer camps are an important way for clubs, especially those without pools, to stay afloat in the summer.

“Clubs that have the facilities and ability to provide summer camps are able to generate important revenues over the summer months, that are often slower for most health clubs,” said Meredith Poppler, vice president of industry growth, in an e-mail.

Since Chase was hired as CEO last year, he said memberships have risen, but dropped by about 300 members to 4,367 for the summer months.

“Some of that is because of the increase in our rates,” Chase said. “But we’re really working on building quality.”

Chase and his camp staff said last year they saw maybe 40 or 50 children for their summer camps; this year they have already seen around 80 children so far. The YMCA has three camps - Camp Journey for children with mental or physical handicaps,the Day Camp at the local facility, and a camp at Lincoln Park.

The Y uses the revenue generated by the camp as the budget to run the camp and do special field trips.

This year the Y camps have gone to “a field trip every week, it gives the kids more exposure into the community,” said Casey Rosseberry, camp counselor.

And at Lincoln Park, 90 to 95 percent of the children are non-members, said Jeremy Allen, camp counselor at Lincoln Park.

“We’re really hoping some of those become members, after all we still have four more weeks of camps,” Chase said.

While camps such as the Y have a pool and day camp, many gyms don’t have the ability to combat the summer slump.

According to IHRSA, only 21.5 percent of health and fitness clubs surveyed in the U.S. and Canada offer summer camp programs.

“Of course, not all health clubs have the facilities, especially the outdoor space necessary for hosting a camp,” Poppler said.

Poppler said that gyms with pools often do not have the same attendance decline as fitness only clubs.

Game Time Sports Center, in the former Springfield Racquet Club building on Bogles Run Road in Urbana, has had a drop off in the summer months they’ve been able to combat with various sports clinics.

Andrea Shiffer Tullis, co-owner of the sports center, said they have hosted basketball, tennis and volleyball clinics all summer, and have two more weeks of tennis.

“The clinics all bring in people in the summer since it’s such a down time,” she said. “We had the basketball clinics just to help bring people in.”

The sports center has only been open since September, but has been steady since then, Tullis said.

Locally, the Y has one of the few day camp programs available. The Fitness Cellar hosts conditioning for local schools’ sports teams year round but not necessarily a camp.

“We have several of the local high schools and middle schools in the area do our spinning program with us as a group,” said Tammy Beam, co-owner of the Fitness Cellar at 137 E. Main St. “Basically it’s their sports teams that are just (doing) off season conditioning or getting in shape for their season.”

The Fitness Cellar is currently working with sports teams from Shawnee High School, Northeastern, Catholic Central and Urbana. Besides spinning, the also offer the weight lifting class Body Pump.

The club is not membership based but offers 40 to 45 classes a week and personal training. Beam said personal training drops some in the summer time, but the classes stay steady.

“We’ve been in the new location for three years and this has been our best year,” she said.

Wittenberg University also hosts a number of youth athletic camps, but declined to be in this report.

“There’s a lot of working people whose kids could be taking advantage of camps while they’re at work,” Chase said. The YMCA provides financial assistance to those who need it to attend those camps. So far they have given $8,500 in scholarships for the YMCA.


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