Amenities that Appeal to the Masses: What a Restaurant-Turned-Fitness-Center Can Teach Us All

It used to be full of ovens, sinks, tables and wait stations, now it’s furnished with treadmills, bikes, cardio training and weight stations. The ownership team of this million-square foot office and retail complex wanted to please its tenants, and converting 8,000 square feet of vacant restaurant space into an advanced, state-of-the-art fitness center has done just that and more. Free and open to use for the employees and tenants of this large multi-tenant cluster of office buildings, the new fitness and wellness hub is generating a much higher return on investment than the restaurant ever could. Welcome to Westport Plaza – a creative fitness space.

“We set out to create a fitness gathering place, a central hub, that would be useful for all employees,” said Lisa Miceli Standage, the fitness design consultant for Advanced Exercise who put the Westport Plaza project together. “The Lodging Hospitality Management team that owns Westport Plaza had four key elements that drove this project to the success it has become: they had an existing fitness space that they weren’t overly happy with, tenants who were passionate about having an open and accessible fitness space, a vacant space that could be transitioned into that new fitness space, and the vision to make it all happen. It’s been a revolution!”

Starting with a small, dark fitness space that wasn’t overly appealing to tenants, the Lodging Hospitality Management team was spurred to make changes based on the wants and needs of its clients. In particular, to make a new, large corporate client happier with its long-term lease, Westport Plaza began this long-awaited transition.

“We wanted something that was 100 percent unique, as we knew nothing about fitness centers,” admits Chad Smith, Vice President of Design and Construction for Lodging Hospitality Management. “Our line of work is mostly hotel construction, and while there are small fitness rooms involved, it’s nothing like what we wanted. We needed an expert to bring large fitness center expertise to the project. We needed the best. We found Lisa and Advanced Exercise.”

The focus behind the project was fairly typical, focused on health, wellness and fitness for a wide range of employee and fitness types. The a-typical surprise at the end of the project has been the positive social impact that the new facility has created. “There are 100 different companies involved in Westport,” continues Smith, “and this facility has become a place where people can connect, meet new friends, much more than just work out.”

The necessary planning to create that result is more detailed than you might think. “I wanted to incorporate equipment that would appeal to all of the employees that have access to the space,” said Miceli Standage. “I did a demographic study with the property management company to determine how to ensure I delivered on what would be expected.” Not many fitness design and equipment sales people do demographic studies in advance of the equipment and design work. The demographic information led to an innovative group training space with a variety of strength and suspension options using Hammer Strength Power Racks and a Double Bay TRX studio system. Visitors also have Wellbeats fitness programming options, digitally-on-demand virtual exercise and training guidance, and all of the accessories necessary to complete any of the Wellbeats workouts.

Working with an expert in fitness layout and equipment was vital to the Westport Plaza project, including the integration of technology, as power connections and placement can be tricky in making the space flow while not having people tripping over cords. An expert in construction himself, just not fitness construction, Smith was surprised at the complexity around the integration of fitness technology into a free-flowing fitness area. “All the stuff that people forget about, Lisa handled for us. That was extremely valuable.”

Advanced Exercise fitness design consultants have years of training and installation experience spanning all types of facilities and all types of fitness communities. The design team has been expanding due to a deeper market demand for expertise that goes beyond equipment sales. “Facility managers, architects and construction teams find that fitness design consultants are a natural part of the team as new construction or upgrades break ground,” said Tim McCarthy, EVP Sales and Marketing for Advanced Exercise. “Fitness amenities are growing in importance to tenants in all sectors, and it’s a competitive advantage to have a well-designed, versatile and accessible space dedicated to personal wellness, where visitors want to spend time. That’s what we create.”

As important as it is, equipment is only one component of the full fitness space design. From the nearly-indestructible ECORE rubber floors to the ratio between locker room space and workout space to the wall graphics, every detail contributes to the fitness experience. “That’s where working with an experienced fitness design expert really matters,” concludes Smith. “I needed someone who’s done this before. Someone who knows how people need to move through a fitness space and what goes where to maximize every element. I don’t want someone testing out their skills for the first time on my project.”

Experience also helps with the budgeting process, as the project came in on time and under budget.

Not everything worked according to plan however. Miceli Standage confessed: “We ran into some structural columns and electric that we could not move. I worked with the architect to re-design the group fitness space several times to get us to a place where the space was still functional, allowing for ample space for working out and incorporating the proper storage to accommodate the walls and columns that we could not move.”

Even though the fitness center has only been open for a few weeks the team is planning for future expansion. “We’re anticipating the need for more treadmills, but I have already planned for that with the proper electric and budget for the future to expand if or when necessary,” says Miceli Standage.

For today and tomorrow, there’s a lot to be proud of for the Westport Plaza team. Efficiencies were plentiful, using available space and refurbishing some existing equipment, while also pushing the envelope on innovation adding equipment options to fit the needs of all types of exerciser. When asked, no member of the team has a single answer to what they’re proudest of: overall design, flooring detail, wall graphics, proper equipment selection, project management across all the contractors, and delivering the finished product on time and under budget were all mentioned. Regardless of any one aspect, the result of the full collaboration is a bright, fun, energetic and very functional use of the space. No regrets and maximum ROI: mission accomplished.

Contact an expert fitness design consultant in your area to start planning your fitness advancements today.

About Advanced Exercise

Founded in 1986, Advanced Exercise is a leading fitness equipment and facility design resource, representing more than 30 equipment brands to bring clients the best new or used equipment solutions to maximize the use of available space and meet the needs of a diverse community of fitness amenity end users. For more information on fitness equipment and facility design services, visit or call 800-520-1112 to connect with one of Advanced Exercise’s experts.