Fitness: Did you hear?…

Outdoor fitness a growing club movement, trial set in Icon vs. Nautilus infringement lawsuit in Utah, The Sports Club Company heading private, Costco writes up its fitness equipment, 24 Hour Fitness on the block? and much more...

For the week of Feb. 8-14

>> In the ongoing infringement and false advertising lawsuit filed by Icon against Nautilus in the Utah District Court in August 2002, a five-day jury trial has been set for March 14. A final pre-trial conference is set for Feb. 15 with Judge Tena Campbell. In addition, four motions by Nautilus for reconsideration of a Dec. 21, 2004 court order were denied. Included in the denials to Nautilus motions issued by the court Feb. 9 was: a motion for the court to reconsider its denial of summary judgment on trademark affixation issues, a motion for reconsideration of the court’s order denying its motion for summary judgment based on a statue of limitations defense to Icon’s patent false advertising marking cause of action, a move for clarification of the Dec. 21 order, and a move for reconsideration of the order granting summary judgment of no false advertising PowerFlex advertising.

>> If you aren’t considering outdoor fitness as some part of your advertising, marketing or product – even as a complement to indoor training – it may be time to take a look. Introduced a year ago at the IDEA fitness instructors conference was a theme called “Club Without Walls,” which grew at last summer’s conference and is now being introduced at IDEA’s regional conferences. Once instructors sink their teeth into a concept, it can grow strongly. Presenters at the IDEA Fitness Fusion conference in Chicago April 28 to May 1 will find workshops on walking, running, GPS adventure quests, a meditation walk and even Nordic walking (walking with poles), which is the hottest and strongest growing category in Europe.

>> Leki shared the love with SNEWS®, letting us peek at a letter from Donna Mirabile who is being tracked by the Salt Lake City Tribune on her weight loss and healthy lifestyle changes. “So yesterday I was walking the track with the (Leki) NW poles…and wow! I started to sweat three minutes into my workout. My heart rate got up to 130 very quickly and it STAYED THERE during the whole workout. When I work out on the ellpitical trainer, it takes me about five minutes to get my heart rate up to 130, and it varies from 130 to 120 or lower unless I’m very diligent about making sure I’m moving my legs fast enough. I work up a good sweat with both devices, and I’ll keep using the ellpitical trainer because the ‘push through’ action has some specific good points for my knees. However, the Leki NW poles really make a difference in the quality of cardio workout I get when I’m ‘just walking.’ Leki NW poles rock!!”

>> 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc. is said to be on the block, and Merrill Lynch & Co. has been hired to look for buyers, according to the New York Post. The San Ramon-based fitness chain could fetch $1 billion, insiders told the Post. Private-equity firm McCown De Leeuw & Co. is the leading investor in 24 Hour Fitness, which had sales of $1 billion last year. More SNEWS coverage to come.

>> The Sports Club Company is looking to take the company private and sell off six of its fitness complexes to help pay off its outstanding debt. Spurred on by four of the company’s principal stockholders, public shareholders will receive $2 for each share of common stock owned by them through the merger of a newly formed entity called Millennium Partners. Sports Club will sell six of its nine facilities to an affiliate of Millennium for $65 million. Clubs to be sold include its three facilities located in New York City, plus Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.. Plus, the management agreement for the Miami Sports Club will be assigned to Millennium. Following the sale, Sports Club will continue to own and operate its three Southern California clubs. Sports Club also said in a statement that it intends to arrange for new financing and use a portion of the remaining proceeds of the asset sale and new financing to retire the $100 million of debt. Sports Club CEO Rex Licklider said, “The sale of the assets to Millennium and the refinancing of the West Los Angeles property will strengthen our balance sheet and relieve the company of the significant debt burden under which we have operated for several years.”

>> Have a sub with that workout? Quiznos Sub is teaming up with Ray Wilson, the founder of several health club chains including Family Fitness, to create a chain of neighborhood fitness centers called 123 Fit. In 2004, Wilson and his business partner Joe Ochoa approached Quiznos’ CEO Rick Schaden and Executive Vice President Brooksy Smith about a business collaboration, using Quiznos’ franchising expertise coupled with Wilson’s knowledge of fitness and health clubs. The concept they created is a results-focused fitness club rooted in a 30-minute exercise routine. The clubs will be set up with pre-defined beginning and end points, eliminating intrusive interruptions or others “working in” and sharing equipment. “Large clubs filled with unfamiliar, complicated-looking fitness equipment can be intimidating to new members,” said Wilson. “123 Fit eliminates that problem through its linear-based setup and allows members to challenge themselves through a comprehensive workout using all muscle groups — including the heart — in just 30 minutes.” The company’s website will launch in late February, and the first 123 Fit health club is slated to open this May in Houston. For more information, contact 303-405-1796.

>> Nautilus’ Tulsa, Okla., manufacturing facility earned a certificate for its excellent record in workplace safety and health — one of only three companies throughout Oklahoma to be recognized. The special honor, described as the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) certificate, is presented annually by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Labor. The facility employs more than 170 people manufacturing Nautilus and StairMaster branded cardio equipment, such as steppers, treadmills and elliptical machines. It manufactured more than 17,000 cardiovascular products in 2004. The SHARP program was designed to recognize small employers who operate an exemplary workplace safety and health management system. The Tulsa facility has also achieved registration of its quality management system under ISO 9001:2000, an international standard published by the International Organization for Standardization to improve product and service quality in manufacturing facilities worldwide.

>> Armand Essig, 78, former chair-elect of the National Sporting Goods Association in the 1990s, died Feb. 11 of undisclosed causes, according to The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Essig was the co-founder and partner of Allied Sporting Goods for over 40 years and past president of the National Buying Syndicate. Services were Feb. 13.

>> Sara Lee Corp. reported that it is going to make its U.S. apparel business — which includes Champion, Hanes and Duofold — into an independent public entity with about $4.6 billion in annual revenues. Sara Lee previously had said it would sell its $1.8 billion European apparel business. Most recently CEO of the bakery group, Richard Noll has been named president and COO of the apparel division. He has also headed Sara Lee Socks and Sara Lee Direct. Noll will report to Lee Chaden, CEO of apparel at Sara Lee.

>> Throughout the month of January, customers of G.I. Joe’s 22-store chain in Oregon and Washington were able to make donations – and they came to $36,153 — earmarked for relief efforts for victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia. G.I. Joe’s added another $20,000, bringing the total fund raising to $56,153, which will be divided equally by the Northwest Medical Teams, Mercy Corps and the American Red Cross. One anonymous donor gave $5,000. “We are so appreciative to G.I. Joe’s for making it easy for customers to donate, and for generously contributing $20,000 in matching funds,” said Bert Kile, executive director of the American Red Cross Oregon Trail Chapter. “Humanitarian organizations are able to provide relief from disasters thanks in large part to support from businesses and communities.”

>> GSI Commerce has named Stephen J. Gold to the position of executive vice president and chief information officer, overseeing the company’s technology and information services organization. Gold has more than 25 years experience in the design, implementation, operation and support of large-scale technology projects and associated businesses. Prior to joining GSI Commerce, Gold served as the corporate vice president of U.S. Human Health Information Services for Merck & Company Inc.

>> Life Time Fitness is planning a grand opening celebration for its newest fitness facility in Commerce Township, Mich., on March 4. The new location will be one of its larger facilities at 109,000 square feet.

>> Michelle Moorehead has been appointed vice president of global strategic planning for Nike, effective immediately. Moorehead succeeds Curt Roberts, who in May 2004 became the vice president and general manager of Nike Vision, Timing and Tech Ventures. Moorehead most recently served as vice president of transition operations at the Target Corp., and has also worked for McKinsey & Company as an associate principal.

>> Catching up with end-of-year publications, SNEWS® was perusing a Costco magazine that is more about advertising and promotion for its brands. One two-page spread was called “Exercising Good Judgment” and told readers they could “get in shape with Costco’s home-gym equipment.” Specific pieces named and illustrated (wisely naming dimensions) were the Nautilus Smith Machine with cable crossover and bench, the Epic vertical knee raise, a Reebok elliptical, an Epic treadmill, a Schwinn recumbent bike, the Bowflex Elite, and an Ivanko 400-pound dumbbell set with rack. Also boxed separately and called out as “great values” were the Ironman Triad treadmill and the Platinum home gym by Weider. The story closed with the following: “There’s no better time than now to join the home-gym revolution. Just be forewarned that you may need to muscle your way through crowds of Costco members who’ll be exercising the same good judgment.” (We didn’t say they could write!) More info at