By MEGAN DOYLE
Thursday, January 9, 2014
(Published in print: Friday, January 10, 2014)
In one room, a group of women lifted weights, mirroring their class instructor.
Around a corner, doubles teams whacked balls to each other on an indoor court.
On another side of the building, a massage chair waited open in the spa.
That’s the scene at the Executive Health & Sports Center in Manchester. And next week, owner Mike Benton will ask the city’s planning board to approve his multimillion dollar plan to replicate that scene locally by renovating the existing Racquet Club of Concord in the image of his pilot facility.
“It will be a brand new facility,” Benton said. “It will certainly have the same sort of traditional services such as racquetball, tennis, a pool. But their fitness (equipment) is completely antiquated. . . . Most of the equipment they have on their floor is 20 years old."
Concord A.C. Tennis Division Inc. owns the Racquet Club property. The owners of Executive Health & Sports Center have a purchase-and-sales agreement that Benton said could allow contractors in the building within 24 hours after the planning board’s approval.
Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development, said the planning board could approve the project as early as during the public hearing Wednesday.
The Racquet Club “has been on the market for quite some time,” Baia said. “The club itself is in need of some renovation. . . . From the city’s perspective, if the project is approved by the (planning) board, it will help to improve a property that has seen some better days.”
The current Racquet Club building on Garvins Falls Road is about 72,000 square feet. During three phases of development, Benton’s plan would increase the health club space to more than 103,000 square feet.
But he stressed this facility, like his operation in Manchester and a similar location in Hooksett, would be more than a gym. It would be a wellness center, a place for a family or an individual to get healthy and learn how to stay that way.
Benton’s son, Justin, walked near a fleet of empty standing bikes ready for a spin class in Manchester. He nodded to another man in gym shorts walking alongside a female employee, clipboard in hand.
That guest would have just received a wellness assessment available to every person who joins Executive, Justin Benton said. That assessment provides every member with a complete health profile, including a blood lipid profile and an analysis of body composition.
“It’s our job to make sure we’re reducing any risks that you have,” said Paula Joyce, general manager of Executive.
Also part of the addition to the Racquet Club of Concord would be about 12,000 square feet for medical offices.
At Executive in Manchester, an occupational therapy practice has its office just downstairs from the fitness center, and an urgent care center has set up next door. Benton said he would hope to provide similar services in that medical office space in Concord. We are going to be working with the greater medical community in Concord, as we have in Manchester, to establish a community health, wellness and fitness facility at that location,” Benton said.
Between the wellness services and the adjoining medical offices, Benton said the new facility would be “completely differentiated” from fitness options already available in Concord, such as the YMCA.
“What we’re building is something where our whole goal is to provide a very nice, affordable but also structured environment,” Benton said.
Should the city’s planning board give Benton the go-ahead in Concord, Baia said he foresees the Racquet Club as “one-stop shopping” for health and fitness needs.
Benton and his team is “inspired, they’ve got success in their record and they want to get going,” Baia said.
The city council first heard about the project in June, when it voted to apply for a $500,000 grant through the state’s Community Development Finance Authority to help with the renovations. The money would pass through another agency, the Capital Regional Development Council, and on to the business in the form of a loan, which the business would repay to the city.
At the time, the councilors were told the estimated cost of the project would total $5.1 million. Benton did not confirm that, saying the project cost was in the range of several million dollars.
Stephen Heavener, executive director of the CRDC, said the organization is working with Benton and his team to provide additional financing to the Racquet Club project on top of that loan.
“We think this is a very important, impactful, high-visibility project for the city of Concord, and we’re very excited to be involved at whatever level is possible,” Heavener said.
The owners of the Racquet Club of Concord did not respond to requests for comment. The planning board will host its public hearing on the project Wednesday at 7 p.m. in council chambers.