How Radical Change can Produce Wild Results

Earlier this year, the doors opened on a big fitness transformation at Kansas State University (K-State). What used to be five racquetball courts at the Chester E. Peters Recreation Complex had been completely made over, reconstructed and tied together to create five Performance Zones where students and faculty have since discovered a new enthusiasm for fitness.

The Performance Zones idea was the brain child of the K-State Recreational Services team, who set out to create a new fitness experience that would be more engaging, serve more diverse needs and be more popular than the existing racquetball courts. The idea, motivation and space were supplied by the K-State team, but they needed an equipment and fitness design expert to bring the whole thing to life. The resulting relationship produced results beyond expectations, and the success continues to grow.

“Training areas like this have not been available to our students before so they are very happy with the variety,” said Steve Martini, Director of the K-State Recreational Services. “This space allows for more growth in our facility and opens it up for more fitness programming.” High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) classes and specialized training and conditioning options are only some of the possibilities that the Performance Zones allow.

The five zones create a different fitness experience in each section.

Zone 1 is purely Power, presenting an area where CrossFit-style training is right at home. The Hammer Strength rigs and accessories create a wide range of muscle-building opportunities where group classes or individual workouts are equally supported.

Zone 2 helps build Strength. There’s a bridge with open floor space where traditional weight lifting is often on display, while Ninja-warrior-wanna-be’s are working on grip strength and unconventional fitness regimes. From tire flips to med ball exercises, body weight workouts to TRX suspension training, the Strength zone is trendy and popular due to the strong variety of choices it offers.

Zone 3 is all about Intensity. This is functional circuit training at its finest. Either alone, in pairs or in larger groups, this zone will put your stamina to the test.

Zone 4 is for those wanting to Train, to break down movements to basic forms and rebuild fitness foundations from the ground up. Boxing bags, medicine balls, TRX suspension training, and power pivot options attract group classes of all levels to this space.

Zone 5 focuses on Speed. More of an individual training area, this is where personal bests are accomplished and then topped, time and time again. The unique turf floor underlies sleds, TRX training, functional fitness equipment, tire flips, medicine balls and other options to give visitors all the tools they need to get faster and better every day.

K-State’s recreation facility has approximately 4,500 users per day but that number is growing. The usage with the Performance Zones averages about 1,000 users per day, orders of magnitude above what the racquetball courts were attracting. “Anyone who has a membership to our facility has access to the space,” said Denise Simonds, communications and marketing assistant for Recreational Services at Kansas State University. “We have seen an increase in the numbers of users within the space since the opening. The numbers continue to go up.”

Since the Performance Zones occupy the space previously held by five of the racquetball courts, one of the challenges was to interconnect the zone rooms and change the entrances and flow-through so that access is maximized. Doorways were cut out and expanded, and walls were opened up to create flow-through spaces between each of the zones. “If we had to do it differently, we would probably add more courts to our Performance Zone area,” admits Martini, since the zones have been so popular since they opened. “Additionally, we should have made the openings between the zones larger than we currently have them. Having an additional court with turf would also be beneficial.” There are so many new possibilities that have opened up, the team is eager to build on to the early success of the Performance Zones. “The Hammer Strength rigs are all modular and we designed the layout with the elements we did to fit both the space and the budget,” said Jeff Paxton, fitness equipment and design consultant with Advanced Exercise, the partner that worked with the K-State Recreational Services team on the project.

“Working with the K-State staff as one cohesive team was great,” continued Paxton. “The equipment line-up is very nontraditional and trust in designing, delivering and installing this large project was crucial to its success. The fear was ‘will the students love this space and use it’? The good news is they started using it immediately when they cut the ribbon and let them in.” The popularity of the Performance Zones continues to fuel participation growth at the center.

The key interaction and teamwork between facility client and fitness consultant was tight and trusting throughout. The expected challenges of cost, space, configuration and construction all came into play, especially since the center remained open to the public while construction was going on. “Jeff Paxton was a huge reason we were able to overcome many of the challenges for this project,” commented Simonds. “The project did not end on time, due to unforeseen delays, but did stay within the budget. It was a new concept for us, and Advanced Exercise was instrumental in picking the equipment for the space, helping design the right layout, and even guiding us on flooring choices. It was like a giant puzzle to put together. The custom configurations allowed us to get exactly what we wanted but also took some time to understand how everything worked and would operate.” Advanced Exercise saw every element through to the end.

“We are proud of how the space came together and how great it turned out,” concluded Martini, on behalf of the whole K-State team. “When we are building something new and with brand new equipment, we always want to make sure that it is something the students want and will use. This turned out to be the case and we couldn’t be happier.”

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.