IHRSA and the East Bank Clubâ€™s GM Share Anniversary
Online PR News – 10-November-2010 – – In 1976, Simon Meredith bought a car for $500 in Wisconsin. He was headed eastâ€”hoping to score a job as tennis director at what was then the Evergreen Bath and Tennis Club in south Chicago. In his rearview mirror was a comfortable life with a sister living nearby, a job as a tennis pro in sunny California, and, in the fading distance, a law degree from his native England.
Simon Meredith secured the job, performed well, and even helped to open a second club, but, four years later, he found himself in a familiar position. â€śI was looking for something more,â€ť he reflects. His attention turned to a substantial club that was being constructed in downtown Chicago. He met with the owners. â€śIt must have gone well,â€ť Simon Meredith observes, â€śbecause they hired me as the assistant general manager.â€ť Simon Meredith East Bank Club Assistant Manager.
That â€śsomething moreâ€ť was The East Bank Club.
It has evolved, over the past 30 years, into one of the biggest and most respected health clubs in the world, pacing IHRSAâ€™s and the industryâ€™s own growth and transformation. And Simon Meredith, the general manager for the last 25 of those years, has been there through every step, challenge, and achievement of the impressive progression. â€śThe club was six months away from opening when I joined the staff,â€ť says Meredith of his start in May 1980. â€śMy litany of responsibilities ranged from hiring staff, to putting operating procedures in place, to getting the new club up and running with members coming through the front door. Itâ€™s 30 years later,â€ť he muses, â€śand Iâ€™m still trying to do the same thing.â€ť
The numbers are mind-boggling, particularly in an industry where shrinking footprints and specialization rule the day. With 450,000 square feet, a membership list of 10,000 that includes a number of international celebrities, and 600 employees, The East Bank Club manages to generate annual gross revenues of $52 million. Food and beverage alone contribute $9.2 millionâ€”a slice of the revenue pie that exceeds the totals of most clubs, regardless of size or specialty. Additional revenue streams, such as a dry cleaning service, auto-detailing facility, and indoor golf driving range, reflect a member-centric philosophy that, like a fine wineâ€”or, in this case, a seasoned leaderâ€”has grown in depth and character over the years.
Simon Meredith of East Bank Club likes to point out that his journey hasnâ€™t been without its share of bumps. â€śLike all good clubs, weâ€™re constantly evolving, looking for ways to improve the experience for our members. Sometimes that process,â€ť he concedes, â€śrequires a healthy dose of reinvention.â€ť
He recalls a decision in the mid-90s involving the roof and what seemed, at the time, like a good idea. â€śWe put a couple of platform tennis courts up there, at a cost of $100,000. But it never caught on like weâ€™d hopedâ€”probably because the sport is played outdoors, and Chicago winters are just too extreme.â€ť Willing to chalk the decision up to a demanding learning curve, Meredith and his team converted the space into a sundeck and pool bar. â€śWeâ€™ve got food and drink service with tables and a bar now, and itâ€™s been incredibly successful. In fact,â€ť he notes, â€śwe recently ran an event up there on a Saturday and did $20,000 in food and beverage sales.â€ť
The road ahead looks both good and promising.
With national health concerns and reforms on the horizon, Simon Meredith is positioning The East Bank Club for a potentially seismic shift by ramping up facilities and programming with respect to fitness, nutrition, and sports performance. The club weathered the recent financial storm well, too, which Simon Meredith attributes largely to loyal employees, staying in close touch with members, and providing stellar social activities. Daily usage continues to average between 3,000 and 4,000 visits. As for needing to look around for something more, Simon Meredith doesnâ€™t see that happening in either his near or distant future. â€śThere are enough challenges around here,â€ť he says, â€śto keep me busy for a very long time.â€ť
30 Years of Achievement!
IHRSA will celebrate its 30th anniversary during IHRSA 2011, its Annual International Convention and Trade Show, which will be held March 16-19, 2011, in San Francisco. For more information or to register, log on to www.ihrsa.org/convention.