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Designing to the Market
Wilton P. Hebert Health & Wellness Center at the St. Elizabeth Hospital

By Donald DeMars
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One of the most challenging aspects of facility design is creating an
environment that best suits your market. For instance, if you build a
multi-million dollar state-of-the are health club in an area comprised mostly
of young, working class families, your doors will likely close due to lack of
sales. Likewise, if a neighborhood, no-frills gym opens in an affluent area,
it's not likely to offer the "extras" area consumers demand.

That's precisely what made our task in designing a wellness center at the
St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont, Texas, unique. Beaumont, a pioneering
oil town located in southeast Texas, includes an interesting mix of
blue-collar and white-collar workers, with an average age of 33. It has one
of the world's largest refining and petrochemical complexes, as well as
shipyards, lumber, pulp, paper and rice mills. With a population of
approximately 116,000, the city is a major supplier of both sophisticated
medical equipment and precision equipment.

Because of Beaumont's socioeconomic mix, it was important to design a
facility that provided sophisticated programming, as well as more
entertainment-oriented, leisure/recreational fitness for the entire community.

Although previous market studies had recommended a facility size of
53,000 square feet, a market analysis performed by DDI Development
Services projected a need for a larger, more family-oriented facility of
approximately 65,000 square feet. The additional space was needed for an
expanded nursery/childcare area, a Kid's Club for ages 7-12, children's
changing rooms, a family-oriented restaurant, and additional outdoor
amenities such as a family pool, tennis courts, sand volleyball courts and a
children's wading pool.

Although Beaumont has a population of less than 125,000, the surrounding
trade area incorporates almost 350,000 people, with few family-oriented
facilities in the area. And while fitness is traditionally a "convenience
industry," in which most members will not drive more than 14 to 20 minutes
to visit their fitness center, in a semi-rural area like Beaumont, people
willingly drive further, especially for a facility and program that is new and
adds to the quality of their lives.

From a competitive positioning standpoint, and after reviewing all of the
other fitness facilities in Beaumont, it was obvious that "the family
approach" was just what the market needed. More than 40 percent of the
population in Beaumont is between the ages of 25 and 54 (the key
consumer age range for fitness participants), and more than 20 percent of
the population is 18 years of age. Most households are two-income.

Beaumont is located 85 miles east of Houston, 280 miles west of New
Orleans, and 35 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. It averages 53 inches of
rainfall a year. This was particularly challenging with regard to the
mechanical design of the facility. The high humidity normally associated
with fitness facilities is amplified tenfold in Beaumont, and both air
conditioning and ventilating systems were designed to accommodate these
special environmental concerns.

Our building concept for the Wilton P. Herbert Health & Wellness Center
attempts to articulate a less institutional structure, with elevations, playful
building massing, landscaping and other features all working together to
present a warm, appealing and exciting environment for the consumer.
Master-planned with an outdoor pool, tennis courts and running track,
much of the facility is open to the public including the entrance lobby,
restaurant, outdoor patio and pro shop. The childcare and Kid's Club
areas are both positioned on the ground floor and adjoin the pool and gym
and their own dressing areas for convenience during children's
programming.

Because the overall design concept is family-oriented, the center offers the
entire community a non-intimidating, social environment to meet friends,
exercise, take classes, recreate and reach for a higher quality of life.

Runners can work out at the St. Elizabeth wellness center regardless of
weather, with both outdoor and indoor cushioned tracks. In the exercise
area, the latest cardiovascular fitness equipment, including stair climbers,
treadmills and computerized bikes are featured. Three lines of strength
training equipment are available, and a separate free-weight studio is
provided.

Once the workout is complete, members can relax with whirlpools, steam
rooms and saunas, or enjoy the outdoor sun deck. Men's and women's
locker rooms are available with towel service, soap and shampoo. To fuel
tired bodies, the Healthy Options Café is located on the first floor with a
complete menu of heart-healthy meals and snacks.

Just for Kids
Workouts aren't just for grown-ups anymore. St. Elizabeth Hospital
believes in spreading the benefits of health and wellness down to the
youngest generation. The Wilton P. Herbert Health & Wellness Center
offers fitness activities for every age with the belief that if children are taught
early about the importance of good health and exercise, they will carry
these habits with them into adulthood. With this encouragement, their
generation may not struggle with the starts and stops of a regular exercise
program that so many adults face today. For children six months up to 11
years, the Health and Wellness Center offers a section called the Kid Fit
area. Here, children will find a brightly painted room featuring friendly
dinosaurs on the walls and activities for every energy level. Foam balls and
tumbling blocks offer a safe way for active kids to get a fun workout, while
"hop" and board games create alternative diversions. For quieter moods,
there are TV's and VCRs for viewing movies and infant swings that allow
for naps while Mom or Dad works out.

Each month the Kid Fit program features a different theme with special
activities. For example, February was Heart Month, and kids learned
about cardio fitness. Fitness specialist helped the children listen to their
hearts with a stethoscope and provided educational coloring activities
related to the heart. Other monthly themes have included rodeos, Mardi
Gras and beach themes. The purpose is to add a fun dimension to fitness,
in addition to the educational aspects.

The Kid Fit program offers separate rooms for infants and older children to
accommodate the differing needs and abilities of each age group. Trained
childcare specialists who are CPR-certified supervise the children in the Kit
Fit area, and an appropriate staff-to-child ratio is always maintained.

For those young people who fall between the Kit Fit age and the age of full
membership (16 years) there are special activities and times for their use of
the center. Under a family membership, young adults (ages 12 to 15) may
have extensive use of the facility during Family Time. Every Friday from 4
pm to 8 pm and Sundays from 2 pm to 6 pm parents may bring their teens
to enjoy the center.

Family Time is designed to involve parents and their children in exercising
together. Activities offered include:

Pool activities (relay races, water volleyball, free swim)
Racquetball and wallyball
Sand Volleyball
Running on the outdoor track
Aerobics
Basketball
Just for kids, the Cardiokids program combines nutrition classes with
fitness for fun and educational workouts. Nutrition classes meet briefly (10
minutes) to discuss a food topic, such as "The Merits of Carrots," and then
move to the aerobics classroom for a basic workout.

Hassle Free membership
The Wilton P. Herbert Health & Wellness Center offers a variety of
"hassle-fee" memberships to meet individual needs. A one-time enrollment
fee is paid upon joining and a monthly membership fee entitles members to
unlimited use of the facility.

Membership dues are collected through electronic funds transfer for
month-to-month memberships, or members can pay 12 months in advance.
There are non long-term binding contracts, and members may cancel their
membership with 30 days' notice.

Once a member is enrolled, a fitness evaluation is conducted and a
complete orientation to the facility is given, including introductions to the
equipment. Additional health and fitness information is available at all times
from the trained fitness specialists on staff. Personal trainers are also
available to work on specific fitness goals for an additional fee. Lastly,
membership includes classes on weight control, nutrition, stress
management, and other health and wellness topics.

Staffing
The Health and Wellness Center is staffed and operated by health Fitness
Physical Therapy inc. Today, HFPT operates six hospital-bases fitness
centers, 110 corporate-based fitness centers, 20 outpatient and on-site
physical therapy centers, and serves numerous hospital clients with
consulting services.
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Donald DeMars International, Inc.,
email us at
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Copyright ©2003 by Donald DeMars International, Inc.