Indoor tennis courts are a 'class act' at new fitness center

Monday, August 27, 2007
Jackie McNally, 12, practiced backflips on a trampoline in the gymnastics room Saturday at Class Act Family Fitness Center.

Back in the woods along Old Orchard Road, two new steel-frame buildings offer a challenge to high-priced fitness clubs in the area.

With 57,000 square feet under the roofs, Shawn and Lynn McNally are expanding from offering gymnastics lessons to providing a full-service fitness club complete with the area's only indoor tennis courts and a 25-yard, six-lane indoor swimming pool. The Class Act Family Fitness Center will also offer gymnastics classes, a weight room and massage therapy.

Some areas under the roof are still under construction. The concrete has been poured for the pool, but a second, smaller pool for teaching swimming to young children is just a hole in the ground and the whirlpool baths and steam rooms are only a concept at this time.

But there will be other amenities ready on opening day that will help attract customers, McNally said. There will be a couple of rooms with pianos for children to practice music lessons while their families are working out, and a computer room where youngsters can do homework. The center will also offer child care for parents who are using the gym.

And at $20 a month for basic memberships -- $30 a month for couples, $40 a month for couples and children -- Shawn McNally said he believes he can attract the customers to make his enterprise thrive.

Owner Shawn McNally played tennis Saturday with Terri Popp at the only facility in the area with indoor tennis courts at Class Act Family Fitness Center. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

"The equipment is the same equipment as the other places," McNally said. "I just don't have marble floors. I have concrete and tile."

The property is outside Jackson city limits, which meant McNally had wide latitude in the construction because there are no planning and zoning rules for unincorporated county land. He was able to act as his own general contractor and draw up his own plans for the building, which he believes saved him and his wife hundreds of thousands of dollars on their $1.5 million investment.

The McNallys plan a grand opening for Sept. 8. "It will be two years of hard work completed," McNally said of the ribbon cutting.

The McNallys first went into the fitness business in 1993 as Class Act Gymnastics. They met as students at Southeast Missouri State University, though both are Lynn, 39. They have four daughters ranging in age from 6 to 15.

The dream of expansion has been in their mind for some time, he said. And six years ago, he knocked on the door of a two bedroom house on the site of the new fitness club and persuaded the owner, a lady in her 90s, to sell. The family squeezed into the home until they could finance the construction project, he said. The family will continue to live on the site, but each girl now has her own bedroom and bathroom. "It is convenient to live where you work," McNally said.

With six acres of land, the site was the logical place to build, he said.

"We did it for multiple reasons," McNally said. "The taxes are lower out here. And the cost of the land was less. Those were the primary reasons, and we wanted to be between Cape Girardeau and Jackson."

The indoor tennis courts will be a prime drawing card for the new business, said Darren Naeder, a member of the board of directors for the Cape Area Tennis Association. The closest indoor courts are in St. Louis or Paducah, Ky., he said.

The Jackson High School junior varsity tennis team has already played matches on the courts, said Naeder, who has a daughter on the high school's team. "They couldn't play during winter months," he said. "This is going to be a neat thing."

The indoor tennis courts will give the new fitness club a distinction in the area that, along with the price, will be very attractive, Naeder said. "It may not be as posh as others in Cape, but as far as bang for your buck, it is really hard to beat."

No membership is required to play on the indoor courts, Shawn McNally said. Customers wanting to use the courts will pay $20 an hour for prime hours and $15 an hour for nonprime times.

And for anyone who signs up before Sept. 8, McNally is offering a special deal for tennis lovers.

For $1,000, customers can purchase a year of unlimited use of the courts. That deal has already attracted 48 takers, McNally said, some of whom signed up for more than one year.

Members of the club will pay discounted rates to use the tennis courts during peak times, with no charge at other times, he said.

The business philosophy behind his pricing, McNally said, is to offer a basic set of services for the monthly fee, with add-on charges for classes like gymnastics or child care. The basic package, he said, will include access to exercise equipment, aerobics classes and the aquatic center.

Indoor tennis was the driving factor behind the size of the two buildings, McNally said. "We had requests to open an indoor tennis center," he said. "It was kind of one thing led to another. We never intended it to be this big, but we just kept adding on."

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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