East Hills Transformation Starting

June 11, 2004
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KENTWOOD — The 130,000-square-foot East Hills Athletic Club is to undergoing a major overhaul beginning this month.

East Hills and its sister facility, Orchard Hills Swim & Sports Club on Crahen Avenue NE, are Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center health services facilities, as is the Michigan Athletic Club (MAC) on Burton Street SE.

Saint Mary’s recently approved slightly more than $2 million in facilities enhancements, of which nearly $1.5 million will go to East Hills renovations, according to East Hills General Manager John Smallfield.

The work will include:

  • An enlarged and relocated fitness center.

  • A redesigned exterior and interior club entrance.

  • Complete renovation of the men’s and women’s lower level locker rooms.

  • A new spinning room with double the space.

  • A Pilates classroom and dance studio.

  • Two new soundproofed massage studios.

  • New multipurpose room with two additional basketball hoops.

  • An enlarged gymnastics and martial arts area.

  • Four additional family changing rooms in the pool area.

  • A relocated and improved fourth playroom and party room.

  • Complete ADA accessibility throughout the building.

East Hills contracted with Integrated Architecture and Rockford Construction Co. for the project. Smallfield said the club will remain open throughout renovation and work should be completed sometime in early fall, October at the latest.

Meanwhile, about a half mile down the road, the DeVos family is building a 96,000-square-foot MVP Sportsplex along with a 30,000-square-foot medical office building on a 10-acre site at the corner of East Paris Avenue and Burton Street.

The $17 million MVP Sportsplex is expected to open in March or April of 2005, said company spokeswoman Kim Bruyn.

But major improvements at East Hills have been planned for some time, Smallfield noted.

Every club, regardless of whether it has a competitor moving in down the street or not, periodically has to do some major renovations just to keep up with the times, he said.

“There have been a number of things that we’ve been wanting to do for years and maybe the threat of competition is what sort of pushed the hospital to commit the kind of dollars that we needed to do this renovation.

“We’re taking the opportunity now to really do a lot of things to bring this club into the 21st century.”

East Hills opened as a tennis club in 1972, sporting 14 indoor courts, Smallfield said. By 1984, the concept of the multi-sport athletic club was just beginning to take hold, so East Hills took out some tennis courts and put in a fitness center.

More indoor tennis courts later gave way to accommodate basketball courts, multipurpose recreational areas and a swimming pool, he recalled. Two courts are being removed this summer to relocate the fitness center nearer to the entrance, just to the left of the lobby, and expand it by 2,000 square feet.

“We’re basically going to be putting the fitness center front and center so when you walk in the club, you’ll see the centerpiece of the club right there,” Smithfield said.

“What we’re trying to do is make it a brand new space. It will have a complete new feel to it. The main objective is not to make the club bigger, but make it better.”

With a new competitor coming into town, membership growth is probably not a reality, but membership stabilization is a goal, he said.

Most of the club’s equipment is relatively new and some of it is very new, Smallfield said. Some new pieces of equipment will be added as part of the renovation, he said.

Smallfield said East Hills has built good relationships with members over the years, and he believes the East Hills staff is the club’s strongest asset.

“We’re trying to augment that asset by improving our facilities so that we compare a little more favorably with the brand new shiny building that’s going to be moving in down the street.”

The club did not raise membership dues this year and has committed to not raising them next year.

“Our interest is not to pass the cost of this capital project on to our members. This is a reinvestment in the business and not something we feel we should have to pass along to the consumer.”

East Hills will have six tennis courts when renovations are completed, plus eight at Orchard Hills. With the combined total of 14 courts, East Hills has more than any other club in West Michigan, Smithfield said.    

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