Club Industry Expo participants ramp up for Chicago show

The seemingly recession-proof commercial fitness business is gearing up for another all-out showcase of wares, along with a handful of special events, to tantalize clubs, trainers and retailers at the 18th annual Club Industry Conference and Expo, Oct. 8-11 in Chicago.

The seemingly recession-proof commercial fitness business is gearing up for another all-out showcase of wares, along with a handful of special events, to tantalize clubs, trainers and retailers at the 18th annual Club Industry Conference and Expo, Oct. 8-11 in Chicago.

With approximately 220 exhibitors (slightly ahead of last year), over 90,000 square feet of exhibits, more than 125 educational sessions, and predictions of surpassing last year's 7,000 attendees, Club Industry seems prepared to deliver loads of energy, networking opportunities and, of course, new equipment and gear.

"Our expectations are to have a very solid event," Herb Greenebaum, marketing manager for Club Industry, told SNEWS recently. "We have a broad slate of free activities that should appeal to attendees."

Among those free events are:

  • Keynote address, "Winning the Food Fight: Making a Difference in Solving America's Obesity Crisis," by Dr. Kelly Brownell, director of the Yale University Center of Eating and Weight Disorders, and the author of "Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America's Obesity Crisis and What We Can Do About It"
  • Presentation of the first-ever Club Industry Lifetime Achievement Award to industry legend Joe Weider (immediately following the keynote)
  • "Realities of Retention: Learn from the Masters" panel discussion featuring Michael Scott Scudder and Sandy Coffman, among other club veterans
  • Seminar aimed at boosting tennis programming in the 50+ market, led by Glenn Arrington, national administrator for USTA-USA Tennis
  • Spa development address -- "State of the Industry" overview of how spas work in health club environments -- presented by Melinda Minton, president of the Spa Association

And, another first-time event that made us chuckle: An improv presentation called "Dealing with Difficult People or How to Avoid Punching that Jerk Next to You," presented by the Human Relations Store and ComedySportz. Seems like this one -- if it's well done -- should stimulate some much-needed laughs and learnings for everyone from manufacturers to club owners to dealers. (SNEWS often has said that this industry can be a tad too serious.)

Also new on the agenda is a new product press briefing that will feature six products selected as "best of show" from more than 20 submitted for consideration. SNEWS was all ears, but we were somewhat surprised to see that among these six "new" products, we've already tried three at this year's IHRSA and Health & Fitness Business shows -- Iron Grip's eWeight Planner, Technogym's Excite treadmill and Makoto's Sports Arena.

However, when checking in with several exhibitors, we found that many will debut new equipment in their booths. Bear in mind, however, that a couple of the big manufacturers prefer the on-site element of surprise and declined to share with us even the tiniest teaser about new stuff (or at least made us promise not to tell). What follows is in no way a comprehensive look at everything new at the show, but merely serves to whet your appetite before pounding the endless aisles at McCormick Place.

The Nautilus Health and Fitness Group definitely has been busy, with plans to launch a new elliptical, a new indoor cycling bike and a new line of strength equipment, but details on all these are hush-hush until showtime.

As you may have noticed by reading SNEWS, group cycling is hot again, with Free Motion Fitness offering workouts on the Tomahawk bike for which it just became the North American distributor. FreeMotion also is unveiling its NordicTrack 9600 Upright Bike and 9600 Elliptical Trainer, in addition to adding seven pieces to the Epic Strength Selectorized line that was launched at IHRSA earlier this year.

Promising something new are the group cycling dudes at Matrix Fitness Systems with its new Trixter X-bike that has handlebars that simulate real mountain biking moves. Strength training fans can test the Performance Press, which functions like a Smith machine but offers exercisers the freedom to adjust the bar 20 degrees forward and back and side to side to customize their path of motion.

Keiser, a mainstay in group cycling, will continue its tradition of exuberant classes pedaling to a live drummer. New for this show is the Trekmill, a treadmill for walkers and hikers that has a 50-degree incline, a 5-degree decline and a maximum speed of 5 mph (which basically sounds pretty close to NordicTrack's Incline Trainer).

For some weight-bearing group exercise, wander over to True Fitness, which will offer new 30-minute BLAST! (Buttocks, Legs, Arms, Shoulders in less Time) workouts on its treadmills that combine gradual increases in incline with various arm movements; these workouts soon will be included in a video that comes with the purchase of every True treadmill (as we mentioned after the Health & Fitness Expo).

Drop in at SportsArt to check out the new consoles on all its Club Series cardio products, which offer new programs, the Cardio Advisor screen and the ability to change programs on the fly. Plus, take a peek at the company's light institutional line, which now is complete with treadmills, ellipticals, and recumbent and upright stationary bikes. And, although you can't work up a sweat on it, also debuting is SportsArt Financial Services.

Life Fitness cryptically told SNEWS that "approximately 70 percent of the products in the booth are new since last year's Club Industry Chicago show," but all mentioned -- including the Pro2 and Signature selectorized strength series lines and the treadmills -- we've already seen at IHRSA and Club Industry East, so we are waiting with bated breath. The Life Fitness folks wouldn't admit to any brand new pieces, although we bet they have something in the works. And of course, group exercise now is de rigueur at this booth with early morning workout classes on the LeMond Revmaster bikes and the PeakPilateSystem Reformer units, but hopefully not simultaneously for the sake of the Pilates devotees looking for a mindful moment.

On the strength side, Icarian hasn't been idle, either, and will unveil a seven-piece functional training selectorized line with iso-lateral and independent movement, dual stacks and the all-important user-defined motion. Also, hop on the V-Crunch, which allows exercisers to perform a reverse crunch in a standing position utilizing a platform that enables the body weight to actually assist the movement, making this a choice for the deconditioned.

Over at Hoist Fitness, three pieces of the new nine-unit KL line specifically designed for kids ages 9 to 14 will make their public debut (which we wrote about in March after a sneak preview at IHRSA). Marketing Director David Salisbury, who described the line as "simplicity at its finest," said that the overwhelming response the line generated earlier this year at a private IHRSA showing convinced the company to exhibit in Chicago -- just reserving a space about a month ago.

Body Masters is presenting a new eight-piece Functional Training Circuit in a space-saving, modular set-up similar to the company's current Circuit Master line. And take a look at Flex's entirely redesigned selectorized and plate-loaded lines, which the company calls "caviar," as compared to its former "bread and butter" equipment, in addition to two new selectorized pieces: a pec fly and iso-lateral row.

With more than 200 exhibitors to peruse, there's a bundle more to see. But if you can't make it or somehow miss something, the SNEWS team will nose around the floor and hang out at events to bring you all the details afterward.