July 15, 2008

New Rochester Health Club Set to Work on Our Bulges

By Jeff Kiger, Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.

Jul. 14--A new health club chain opening in Rochester is eyeing the local Boomer Bulge.

With the huge numbers of Baby Boomers creating a demographic bulge, along with sedentary lifestyles creating more bulges of another kind, Steven Borghi wants that crowd to be comfortable in his WorkOut World, or WOW, health club.

"We are a little bit different kind of health club. Our primary market is the Baby Boomers," he said, after rolling into Rochester in a giant green logo-festooned bus.

WOW is based in New England and has more than 30 clubs nationally.

Borghi is revamping a 24,000-square-foot space at Crossroads Shopping Center that last held Gander Mountain, before that store moved to northwest Rochester. The hope is to open in late summer or early fall. This would be his first Minnesota site.

Expect "a sea of equipment" as well as locker rooms with showers, an aerobic studio for classes, juice and a daycare area, he says.

Cardio equipment planned for the club includes 50 treadmills, 25 stationary bikes, 30 cross trainers and 10 steppers. Each machine has its own plasma TV.

"We say if you have to wait for a piece of equipment, we'll buy another one," said Borghi, describING how he plans to fill the now-empty space.

Beyond the equipment, he says it is very important to create a club where people feel comfortable and safe.

WOW numbers show that about 40 percent of their members have not worked out regularly before. And 68 percent of the members are women.

That means the various aerobic and yoga classes all have very basic beginner programs to ease newcomers in.

There is a women's area that members can use if it makes them feel more comfortable. And the aerobics studio is designed to eliminate gawking by people outside a class.

"It is not a fishbowl like you see at some places," Borghi says.

A staffed daycare area is available for members to drop kids off to play at a cost of $2.50 for two hours.

A team of coordinators called "Wowsers" staff the center and work with the members.

"We don't want people to feel stupid or intimidated. We want this to be a place you belong," he says.

With a membership cost of about $20 a month, WOW paints itself as a full-service club at a discount price.

"We're kind of recession-proof," Borghi says.


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