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"Boo" Knows Fitness

Resort Management & Operations

Beverly "Boo" Cutchins, Director of Sports Operations for Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, VA has been in her current position for 10 years. She has an undergraduate degree in sports medicine and a graduate degree in sports management. Cutchins knows her way around the fitness industry and has seen both good and bad fitness programs. She knows what she likes.

But liking and having are two different things. It's been in the past five years that things really came together for Cutchins. In that period she's had the opportunity to work with Kingsmill's current general manager, Terri Haack, who has the ability to visualize the long-term, big-picture ideas. Together, Cutchins and Haack have worked to reshape Kingsmill's Sports Club into a vision that reflects the future in the resort industry.

Shaping Up. The Sports Club began as the typical, "work out" room for the owners of the homes and the 400 condominium units, which comprise the resort's room stock, as well as for the resort's guests. When owners were on-property, they needed a place to exercise. The resort offered -- and still does -- memberships to that resident population. Guests receive Sports Club privileges as one of the resort's amenities.

"From a fitness perspective, we started with a sports club with a very small fitness center, indoor pool, racquetball court," Cutchins recalled. "We sold memberships to those members of the community."

But in the last 18 months, quantum changes have been made to the sports facility, including a 7,000-square-foot expansion to include The Spa at Kingsmill.

The 2,200-square-foot fitness center features Cybex and Keiser circuit training equipment and an extensive free weight area; two racquetball courts; 28 cardiovascular stations; a testing lab, with Microfit software to assess fitness; an aerobic studio; indoor and outdoor swimming pools; whirlpools; saunas; steam rooms; game rooms; and locker rooms. The fitness center offers personal training with certified personal trainers. Childcare is also available. The residential area of Kingsmill also has a five-mile, paved biking and running trail with great views of the James River.

The Spa at Kingsmill features six massage studios, two facial treatment rooms, a wet room, manicure and pedicure stations, and a hair care/makeup salon. European skin purifying facials, therapeutic massages, seaweed and paraffin body treatments, hand and foot renewal treatments, and botanical mud treatments are among the services offered. Full- and half-day packages, as well as tennis/spa and golf/spa packages are available.

The Sports Club also has its own informal restaurant, Regatta's, which includes a general store. Menu specialties include blue crab and corn chowder, and Michelob Shrimp (Kingsmill is owned by Anheuser-Busch, after all).

Staggering jets. Sensing changes in the fitness and resort winds, Cutchins and Haack began planning their dream fitness center. Cutchins was given the opportunity to visit other resorts and cherry-pick good ideas wherever she found them. The results have been rewarding both from a guest satisfaction and a bottom-line viewpoint.

"During pre-construction and construction I was afforded the opportunity to benchmark several different properties - ones that our master planner Tag Galyean has been involved with, and others - so we could have the best of the best," she stated. "Especially from a fitness perspective, making sure we could match the needs of our membership with our very well-educated resort guests."

An example of Cutchins input is demonstrated in the men's and women's locker rooms, where Kingsmill added whirlpools, steam, and club-quality lockers. "I was able to be involved in the design part of the whirlpool," she recalled. "We were able to stagger the whirlpool jets so whether you're working a hip or a knee or shoulder or whatever, there's a jet at that level, and it makes the whirlpool that much more therapeutic."

Cutchins sees the spa and the fitness center as part of a total experience. As more and more aging Boomers are trying to slow the effects of time, fitness has evolved from buffing to healthy practice, and the stress-relief aspect of the spa is an important component of that picture.

She manages a combined staff of 80, with 45 spa and 35 fitness employees. "The spa requires a higher staff-to-client ratio to ensure the highest level of service and to allow the physical plant to deliver that for which it was designed," she said.

The fitness center staff includes about eight personal trainers and one to two fitness instructors on the floor at all times. Trainers are nationally-certified, and most have a degree in exercise science. The fitness instructors are there to ensure the proper and safe use of the equipment, and to allow the trainers to work with their clients without interruptions.

Dumbbell demographics. In planning the expanded facilities, Cutchins began a complete awareness of the end user: "Our average resort guest is 40 years old," she related. "Eighty-five percent are going to do cardio, whether that's a bike or a treadmill. Probably 20-25 percent are going to lift - and that number is continuing to grow as the American College of Sports Medicine acknowledges that the strength program is as important as the cardiovascular program."

There are other reasons why these aging athletes and couch potatoes find their way to Kingsmill's Sport Club. Injury prevention and conditioning programs for the tennis player and the golfer are just two examples of specialized fitness programs that Kingsmill has begun to offer in recent years to cater to these specialized needs. But the primary reason is The Big One.

"The Surgeon General has now said that a lack of physical exercise is detrimental to your health," Cutchins noted with the mischievous grin of one who has stayed on the path of righteousness. "Now people who used to train haphazardly are training two to three times a week and adding more strength training to their programs. For our older and de-conditioned population, it's great. And the average Joe is seeing what it's doing to his golf game. He's seeing that he can mulch a little bit longer, cut the grass more easily. Exercise is having a positive effect on their daily activities."

The spa crowd is currently a bit different from the workout audience, but they will share many similarities in the very near future, Cutchins stated. "Spa started as a luxury and pampering for the rich. They now have a broader appeal as spas are an avenue for total wellness through stress reduction, detoxification, and promotion of general well-being."

Which is not to say that the luxury element of the spa has completely vanished. Kingsmill offers a six-page listing of spa services, which reads like a menu for a five-star restaurant. An example;

"Thalassotherapy Treatment: This luxurious shoulder-to-toe treatment begins with a warm tranquilizing sensation as a rich seaweed mask is applied. A mylar wrap enhances the absorption and rebalances the skin's essential vitamins and minerals. Finally, a warm Vichy shower removes the body mask, and a rich marine-based cream is massaged into the skin."

A 'classic' model takes a test drive. Resort Management and Operations put that theory to test by offering up the body of a 46-year-old writer, who strength trains with a trainer, runs regularly, and intermittently uses the services of a massage therapist, for a test drive through Kingsmill's Sports Club.

Steve Hessberg, a certified training who most recently taught at a private school in Italy, took the writer through the Cybex and Keiser circuit plus free weights. His low-key, professional approach, combined with intelligence and a dry sense of humor, made the hour workout seem to fly by.

After stretching and cool down, it was off to the locker room, where one of the nicely appointed wood front lockers was assigned, complete with fluffy robe and shower clogs. After a quick splash in a spacious shower (the disabled-access shower even has digital temperature controls) and a dip in front of the jets in the huge, multi-tiered spa tub, an attendant showed the way into the men's "quiet room," just outside the spa area.

There subdued lighting, plentiful drinking water, and more restful music then the upbeat sound of the fitness area made it clear that one was entering a place for casting aside toxins, both physical and mental.

Rhonda, a massage therapist who has recently received her certification from a Williamsburg-area training program, displayed as much confidence and skill in Swedish, deep tissue, and trigger point massage as therapists with many years under their fingertips.

The entire experience was so restful that not even walking out of the Sports Club to find the skies black, or driving to Norfolk International Airport in sideways rain and hail could shake the pervasive calm that the writer felt.

Let's get fiscal. The Sports Club renovation opened in July '96, and the spa was completed in October of that year. The entire program has been rousing financial success. Overall, Cutchins said, the Sports Club was running 33 percent ahead of plan for year-to-day '98 through April. Sales for the month of April were 85 percent over April '97, and the year-to-date sales were 60 percent over '97. And most of that new business is attributable to word-of-mouth.

"Our success has been overwhelming once we were able to get the word out that Kingsmill has a new product," Cutchins related. "Our users are seasoned spa-goers. Close to 70 percent of our spa goers have used spas elsewhere. No longer is a spa a luxury: It's a must-have for a resort operator to be able to compete.

"Our guests know we have golf and a fun children's summer camp. When we have a conference not everyone plays golf, so the spa adds that extra value."

Cutchins said the day guest business through word-of-mouth has spread from Washington DC to Virginia Beach. People come down to Kingsmill for "spa days," Cutchins said. "Our gift certificate business is tremendous and growing." In 1997, $120,000 in gift certificates were purchased from the Sports Club - with half of the total bought during the month of December.

Cutchins looks forward to the next phase - active marketing of the Sports Club fitness and spa services and further refinement of her area's offerings.

As Bev Cutchins and her boss Terri Haack have proven, for resorts with the proper level of commitment and vision, physical fitness can equal fiscal fitness.