Club Industry shows few woo-hoo products, but doesn't lack energy

With a show that seemed to have few if any products that created a buzz in the aisles, the 2006 Club Industry show still managed to have enough aisles and enough people in them to elicit positive feedback from both exhibitors and attendees.
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With a show that seemed to have few if any products that created a buzz in the aisles, the 2006 Club Industry show still managed to have enough aisles and enough people in them to elicit positive feedback from both exhibitors and attendees.

The show isn't, of course, growing. Are any really? Final attendee numbers won't be available until later this month, but show management said the show covered 86,100 square feet (861 booth spaces), just a few ticks down from the 90,000-square-foot area covered each of the last four years. Exhibitor numbers are also down just a bit to 219 companies from last year's 237 and 2004's 245.

"I saw some energy back," said show director Zari Stahl. "The suppliers seemed revved up. The show had a good vibe, and the quality was excellent, although the numbers were about the same."

Star Trac and Cybex remained huge front-row booth players, with SportsArt for the first time taking a front-row space. Matrix Fitness had upsized considerably too, with a large airy booth with plenty of elbow room. Life Fitness was smack inside the front door, per usual, with the only forehead-furrower being a small herd of rather amateur-ish college cheerleaders shaking pompons and occasionally rousting up the energy to do a few sis-boom-bahs accompanied by twirls and the chant, "Let's go!..." (We could never figure out what they were cheering on, but we think it may have had to do with the team sport emphasis in photos in the booth.) MIA were Technogym and Body Masters, which helped to eke down the square footage a bit too.

Nothing on the floor got folks truly buzzing and whispering or asking each other, "Have you seen X yet?" What did we see in our short scoot one afternoon around the floor? A few things worthy of mention, although we aren't going to begin to claim we saw it all. No way. Of course, not on the floor was a new Matrix piece called the Ascent Trainer that will formally launch at the 2007 IHRSA show. We can't tell you more, but we think it will be a hit and we bet you can make some guesses about it. Also behind doors was new Nautilus strength equipment, with the booth itself showing the commercial TreadClimbers as the big push.

Cateye Fitness -- Probably one of the booths with the most fun going on was Cateye. The new Cateye Dance Pad -- think Dance Dance Revolution, but different -- was introduced, and company president Jim Stone Sr. said he has spent a long time perfecting the controls and durability. The electronic switches that your feet control under each tic-tac-toe-like square are encased with urethane so they are "impervious" to water, Stone said, and will therefore last longer and be more stable. It also has rubber flooring on the bottom not only to lessen leg fatigue but also slippage and protect the switches inside. "It looks very simple, but it's as complicated as the bikes," he said.

FreeMotion Fitness -- Joining a growing trend that is thankfully gaining some sanity, FreeMotion had a new vibration trainer that if looks could kill would kill anybody who stole a glance. It was sleeker and more futuristic than nearly anything we've ever seen at a fitness show. Curved steel posts made it look inviting rather than like somebody was going to zap you forever into outer space. A clear Plexiglas plate to stand on showed you some internal guts. Called the iTonic, it still had a brochure that made a few too many claims but, once fully understood and used correctly, vibration could find a calling. List $8,500.

Keiser -- One of the early innovators in indoor cycling, Keiser had since fallen woefully behind. But this new M3 indoor bike could change that. It has a newly designed modernistic look with a magnetic non-friction system for a more realistic feel, the company said. The cycle computer, included, has both watts and kilocalories, as well as heart rate, distance and time. All for $1,200 list.

Peak Pilates -- Something new in "Pilates," with the genre definitely in quotation marks for a reason. Peak Pilates introduced its new "MVe Fitness Chair" that is per the brochure "a re-imagined breed of Pilates equipment synergized with heart-pumping, music-drive fusion workouts." It's basically like a chair, but aluminim for more lightweight durability and sleekness, and stackable for less space consumption in studios -- especially if one is getting a bunch for a group exercise format (also supplied by Peak, of course). Great, versatile design with uses left only to the imagination of group instructors. Of course, we were just waiting for someone to take the mind-body-ness of Pilates and "pump it up." Although it is a bit of a contradiction, it could still bring more people to the genre. And this piece would be great for enthusiasts for home use, too.

SportsArt Fitness -- For the first time, the company showed equipment with TV screens, touch control types that allow the user a choice between full LCD panels, partial LCD with TV, or full TV. A part of the newly christened Xtreme Series (look for pictures of rock climbers and mountain bikers), a treadmill with the screen will list for $8,000, while the new recumbent will list for $4,600. In addition, the recumbent has a so-called "Comfort-Dri" ergonomic back with holes molded into it for better venting to keep a user more comfortable despite a sweaty back. Also launched was a new tagline the Xtreme commercial line with the tag "Escape Ordinary."

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