Athletic club turns 25
Adapting to both has been critical the success of the Janesville Athletic Club, which is marking its 25th anniversary this year.
Longtime Janesville businessman Terry Campbell bought what was the Supreme Court racquetball club on Black Bridge Road and opened the club in 1985.
Originally a 12-court facility, the building was scaled back to four courts, and loads of fitness equipment was added.
Additions for tennis courts and basketball followed, as did an outdoor pool.
Campbell’s initial membership roster included a few hundred names.
“Terry did the right things, and he grew the business successfully,” said Mark Groshan, who bought the club from Campbell in 1999 when it had about 3,000 members. Groshan bought the club with a partner, Jeff Dedrick, who sold his interest to Groshan in 2005.
“Terry had success, but it took time,” added Helen Murray, who ought to know.
Murray and Shirley Daley are the only two current JAC employees who have experienced all 25 years of the club’s lifetime.
In 1999, Groshan was working in the pizza business in Oregon, but he longed to return to his native Janesville. A friend suggested that Campbell might be interested in selling the JAC and its downtown sibling, the Riverfront Athletic Club, which Campbell opened in the former Woolworth’s in 1998.
“It worked out really well,” Groshan said. “I wanted to be back in Janesville, which is a great town, and I wanted to be involved with something that was sports/fitness related.”
Groshan said his biggest challenge has been keeping up with constant changes in fitness services. New equipment routinely debuts, as do new group programs.
Recent examples of the latter are the popular Zumba and Power Pump classes, and Murray said she’s seen the wonders that senior programming has generated.
“Staying on the cutting edge certainly makes the business interesting,” Groshan said. “We’ve been voted the best fitness center in Janesville, and I think that’s because we’re always updating and improving our equipment and programming.”
The two clubs have about 4,000 members and employ about 75 people. They’ve become a core of the community’s quality of life.
“I think that between the Janesville Athletic Club, the Riverfront Athletic Club and the Janesville YMCA, the community is served very well,” Groshan said.
As Campbell did before him, Groshan competes every day with the nonprofit YMCA. But the two attract somewhat different clienteles, he said.
While the YMCA offers plenty of fitness and adult programming, it focuses extensively on organized youth programming that Groshan’s clubs do not. While families certainly are welcome at his clubs, Groshan said JAC and RAC tend to focus more heavily on adults.
Groshan also admits that there’s a subtle difference in clientele between his two clubs. While some members prefer a quieter, more laid-back atmosphere downtown, others prefer the scene on Black Bridge Road.
“It always looks busier at JAC than it really is,” Groshan said. “We’re finally getting members to realize that we have three parking lots here, and there’s always equipment available.”
Groshan said the clubs have felt the effect of the economic downturn. Some members, he said, have taken a closer look at their dwindling disposable income and decided to shed their health club membership.
“That’s unfortunate, but certainly understandable,” he said. “I’ve had people tell me they don’t want to leave, but they have to.”
That’s forced Groshan and his staff to develop aggressive member referral and appreciation programs.
“Our biggest challenge is always member retention and recruitment,” he said. “How do we continue to offer everything we want to offer and still keep expenses in line?”
Campbell, who died in 2008, faced the same challenges and found ways to make the business a success.
Groshan said he has a great staff, and together they will do the same as the club climbs on the treadmill for its next quarter century.
“We will continue with more of what’s got us to this point and keep looking for ways to improve the clubs,” he said.