Finesse Leisure, in partnership with Alliance Leisure, has redeveloped the fitness offering at two sites, Hatfield Leisure Centre and Hatfield Swim Centre, to attract a wider segment of the community and combat the financial pressure imposed by the arrival of two low cost operators.

Works began at both sites in December 2016 and completed in March 2017. Total investment across the two sites was £330,000 and, since completion, membership numbers and income have grown for the first time in 18 months.

Duwaine Sinclair, Sales & Marketing Director at Finesse Leisure comments: “Both leisure sites play an essential role in the provision of a wide selection of physical activity facilities for the local community. Each year the centres welcome more than 400,000 visitors, but like most public-sector leisure operators, the trust faces growing financial pressure. This pressure was amplified last year when two shiny new budget gyms arrived on our doorstep.

“The board recognised that growing the fitness membership would provide the biggest return on investment. As a result, it was decided to focus investment on improving the fitness provision. To help us scope the works and manage the development project, we engaged Alliance Leisure, valuing the company’s pedigree in the areas of regeneration and community engagement.”

Tom Fairey, Business Development Manager at Alliance Leisure, says: “The key to the success of the Hatfield project has been the clever reconfiguration of existing space and smart investment in some signature kit. This has totally changed the feel of the space and made it more attractive, inviting and accessible.”

At Hatfield Leisure Centre, the dedicated ShapeMaster studio was relocated from the first floor to the ground floor, now occupying a space previously underutilised next to reception. This single change has had a significant impact. In addition to making the activity much more accessible to users, many of whom have mobility issues and struggled with the stairs, the relocation has increased the visibility of the activity. Now, everyone entering the centre can see the facility.

Sinclair adds: “We have also placed gym instructors in this area to improve the level of service and to educate members on the benefits of extending their activity to the gym. This has resulted in an enhanced service to ShapeMaster members, many of whom now feel confident enough to exercise in the main gym as well as the ShapeMaster studio. The ShapeMaster offering is really important because it enables us to provide a service targeting the older and less active market. This creates a point of difference between us and the low-cost operators.”

Relocating the ShapeMaster studio provided an opportunity to remove internal walls in the gym to create an open plan space which is bright and airy, with the benefit of natural light. The area was also zoned to create a dedicated functional training and HIIT area accommodating a Queenax™ format functional training system, two Wattbikes, two Technogym SKILLMILL™, two Octane Lateral-X and two Octane Seated X-Trainers.

A group cycle studio was also created housing 18 Technogym bikes, along with specialist lighting to give the space a night club feel.

Sinclair adds: “The new kit has been really well received by members and staff. The new functional space allows us to offer classes on the gym floor promoting engagement between staff and members and helping members to find other like-minded people to train with.”

At the Swim Centre, the original workout space was divided in two by a partitioning wall. This was removed to create one, open plan space. New flooring was laid throughout. A Technogym Omnia was installed to create functional training opportunities and two Wattbikes were added.

Fairey adds: “The developments at Hatfield prove that it’s not always necessary to invest millions to make a big difference. Clever investment in key areas can generate significant returns and have a hugely positive impact on user experience.”

Sinclair concludes: “Alliance Leisure worked in partnership with us throughout the project to ensure the works were delivered with minimal disruption to our users. Developments have resulted in a net membership gain of 10 per cent since the start of the year. This is the first time we have experienced a growth in the number of members and revenue for 18 months and we look forward to this trend continuing moving forwards.

“These statistics support the fact that the local community very much approves of our investment. Encouraging more people through our doors to take part in physical activity was the aim at the start of the project and it is great to see this being fulfilled.”