New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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You've Decided to Install a Gym In Your Building. Great! Now What?

Frank Lovece in Board Operations on January 22, 2013

E. 84th Street, London Terrace, New York City

How to Install Co-op Condo Gym
Jan. 22, 2013

After this period of information-gathering, "We hired an architect, and there was designing and consulting on what kind of equipment was suitable and other things — we dealt with Gym Source during this time," he says, referring to what is perhaps the country's largest fitness-equipment retailer, after Sears. Finally they "hired a contractor, who had it built."

Should your co-op or condo board survey your residents to learn their feelings about a gym? "That's a double-edged sword," says Thomas Jackowski, a fitness consultant affiliated with Gym Source. "If you do a survey, it has to be written so that you're not opening Pandora's box and asking them for design input or equipment input." But before getting to the buying stage, however, you have to know what kind of space you have.

Space: The First Frontier

"I think that most prewar and early postwar buildings have adequate space in a basement or first-floor area," says Mikel Travisano, a Douglas Elliman project manager who oversaw the refurbishment of the gym at London Terrace, the 1930s complex of more than 1,600 cooperative units and rental apartments filling the block between West 23rd and 24th Streets and Ninth and Tenth Avenues. "Those spaces are designed as utilitarian or commercial spaces, so they would be easier to convert to a gym as opposed to, say, the conversion of a residential unit."

The two biggest issues facing any space you choose are noise and vibration. "You have to put down a lot of protective padding throughout the gym and try to locate and organize the equipment to minimize the transfer of noise and vibrations," says Travisano, "so the spacing and layout are important considerations" best left to professionals. Heavy, hard-to-move gym equipment, he notes, " must be installed in the right places from the start."

Users Heart Cardio

In general, just what should that equipment be? "The number-one usage" of a fitness center, says Jackowski, "is for cardio — meaning things like treadmills, elliptical trainers, and steppers. Then the second most popular, believe it or not, is open floor space for stretching and ab work," such as with a medicine ball, stretch bands, and other tools for abdominal muscles. Then comes the strength equipment — either free weights or machines such as those made by companies like Nautilus, which also owns the Bowflex, Schwinn and Universal brands. You can either purchase or lease equipment.

What are some of the less-obvious considerations? "Ventilation," advises Mickey Napolitano, vice president and director of residential real estate at BLDG Management."The room gets hot in the summer," and heat exhaustion is something you want to avoid. "You have to put in an air conditioner," she says. "And a water fountain. In some gyms we put in bathrooms."

As for flooring, "We used to go with black, rubberized floors, and now the trend is toward much lighter flooring with speckles. It gives a cleaner, brighter look."

What Else?

Gyms also need mirrors."One reason is to help you perform exercise activity better," says Jackowski. "And it helps someone who's using the room see what's going on. That gives an extra sense of security and if it's done properly will make the space seem bigger. Then I always use it to help the lighting, in terms of [mirrors'] reflective properties."

"Shockingly," says Napolitano, "you should put in televisions, because people want to look at TV when they're running on a treadmill. You might have to put in some soundproofing. You also have to put in the proper electrical receptacles for each piece of equipment."

How much does all this cost? "We've spent, depending on the size, from $55,000 to the sky's-the-limit," says Napolitano. And if you're going completely cut-rate "and just painting a room and putting in three treadmills, it's not expensive at all."

"Most pieces of equipment run anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000, and the total could be from $80,000 to $150,000 typically," says Travisano. "There are different lines of equipment, from basic to high-end lines with leather seating."

Boards will also have security and insurance concerns. Read about them in part 3 of this article.


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Photo by Carol J. Ott. Click on image to enlarge.

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