Premier owners envision incentive-based program for area employees

TRAVERSE CITY – For five months, the fitness facilities formerly known as Ultimate Fitness lay dormant. Deep in dept, Ultimate Fitness owner Dale Carpenter closed the Traverse City-based health club unexpectedly in January, leaving members out in the cold, scrambling to find a fitness center at which to work out.

Under new ownership and bearing a new name, the doors of the fitness facility re-opened on May 18, this time as Premier Health & Fitness.

Local businessmen Joe Kostrzewa and Wayne Sterenberg, at the prodding of former members and feeling the need for such a facility in the community, purchased the facility from bankruptcy court and assembled a team to run it. Both are hoping that this new venture will pay off not only for them financially, but even more so, that it will pay off for the health of the community.

As a member of Munson Healthcare's Board of Directors for 19 years, Kostrzewa brings to his new venture a keen interest in the long term health of the community. His desire with Premier is to create citizens that take a proactive approach to being healthy rather than reactive. Sterenberg shares this desire.

For these reasons, Kostrzewa and Sterenberg are focusing on creating a facility that is all encompassing and emphasizing, in their marketing messages, Premier's commitment to "keeping you fit for a lifetime." But they're also putting this claim into action, differentiating themselves, they feel, from other fitness facilities in the area.

"We purposefully named it 'health and fitness,'" explained Kostrzewa. "We did not want to use the word 'gym.'"

Kostrzewa and Sterenberg are particularly proud of the staff they've assembled, which includes co-managers, Jeremy Wells and Pat McDonald, both of whom are certified personal trainers with collectively over 20 years in the business. In addition, Premier boasts an additional four certified personal trainers, a nutritional specialist, and a physical therapist.

The facilities at Premier, the team feels, are equally impressive.

"The equipment is top-of-the-line equipment," said Wells. "You can't get better than what we have here. We have the best variety, the best brand. We have over 80 pieces (of equipment); I don't think any gym has that."

In addition to the cardio and weight training machines, free weights, the Pilates classes, nutritional guidance and physical therapy expertise, Premier can easily boast of something that no other gym has, a partnership with Munson healthcare. It is Premier's icing on the cake.

Premier and Munson have joined forces to offer Aqua Fit classes at Premier, utilizing Premier's dual-lap lane pool. They also work together on a weight management program. The plan, though, is to expand much beyond these two programs.

"We will continue to look at other opportunities that make sense," said Kostrzewa. "We have a very open relationship with (Munson). We enjoy being partners with that level of a company, and are flattered that they want to work with us."

Though they don't target a particular market, Premier tends to attract more of a baby boomer clientele. This, they attribute to the atmosphere at Premier.

"We try to get all people of all walks of life, attract them with a comfortable atmosphere, professional staff who treat them right, and top-of-the-line equipment," said Kostrzewa, who admits that the bulk of the clientele tend to be in the 35- to 65-year range. "This place is more respected. It's well-maintained and kept up to date, adults like that."

"We take the approach of getting people fit for lifetime and long-term health versus getting people ready for the beach," McDonald adds. "I think it's a non-invasive and less intimidating environment."

As business owners, both are involved in the oil and gas business, Sterenberg and Kostrzewa also bring to the table the concern of business owners nationwide: skyrocketing healthcare costs for their employees. For this reason, the two are also looking into creating a discount membership program for corporate accounts.

But they also want to take their corporate partnerships one step further.

Working with owners and presidents of local businesses, Kostrzewa and Sterenberg envision developing an incentive-based program for employees, with the eventual goal of getting insurance companies to reimburse those businesses who encourage their employees to take proactive measures in ensuring their health and who have proven results.

They feel this type of program will benefit companies not only on the bottom line, but also in reduced absenteeism and a higher quality of work.

"It's the right direction to go, a win-win," Kostrzewa concluded.

Open seven days a week, Premier Health & Fitness is located at 1201 S. Garfield Avenue in Traverse City. For more information, call (231) 995.0920. BN