Marketing expert: Sports
center proposal will work
Marketing expert: Sports
MARLBORO — The third hearing for a new health club and training facility included the presence of an opposing party, updated traffic reports and testimony by an expert on market feasibility studies.
Brothers Frank and Stephen Calandrino initially proposed the Marlboro Sports Center at a Feb. 12 Zoning Board meeting. The facility, as proposed, would include a fieldhouse, a health club and a day spa.
The facility would be built on a 7.85-acre tract at the intersection of Vanderburg and Boundary roads. The vacant parcel is in an area zoned for light industrial (LI) uses. The applicant is seeking a use variance from the Zoning Board in order to build a for-profit recreational facility.
At an April 30 meeting, the applicants presented plans that reduced the size of the facility from 103,350 square feet to between 70,000 and 80,000 square feet and removed one of the two proposed basketball courts. Parking spots were also moved away from the building.
The applicant’s traffic engineer, John Rea, returned with a more in-depth traffic study. After studying the intersection of Route 79 (Main Street) and Vanderburg Road, Rea reported that the level of service is and has been at a level F for the past 10 years. He said the state Department of Transportation measures traffic levels on a scale from A to F, with A being the best conditions and F being the worst.
Rea said an improvement program is being considered and if approved, will be the only way to improve the intersection’s level of service.
Zoning Board engineer and traffic consultant Ernest J. Peters mentioned a possible ordinance that would require all surrounding properties to pay their fair share in order to improve the intersection.
For example, he said, if an application is responsible for 5 percent of the traffic at the intersection, it would pay 5 percent of the cost to fix the intersection. The applicant agreed to such an agreement if necessary.
"The addition of the sports center will not have a significant or measurable impact on the intersection," Rea said.
Zoning Board Chairwoman Sherry Hoffer questioned whether the proposed facility would generate more or less traffic than a permitted use in the LI zone.
Rea said that a not-for-profit recreational facility [which is permitted] would generate the same, if not more traffic than the proposed Marlboro Sports Center. A light industrial application would most likely generate less traffic than the proposed facility, he said.
In response to Rea’s assertion that the peak hours for a sports facility are from 6-8 p.m. on weekdays, Hoffer questioned why a visit to Elite Gym in Manalapan on a Sunday morning did not yield one available parking spot.
In response, Rea said the Elite Gym to which Hoffer referred has a membership of about 6,000 people, while the Marlboro Sports Center is planning for a membership of about 3,000 people.
"Does that mean your client would limit the number of members to 3,000?" Hoffer asked. Neither Rea nor project attorney Rick Brodsky said they could make that assurance.
At a March 3 special meeting, the applicants were asked to conduct a complete market study to support their claim that a facility such as the one they are proposing is rare and in high demand.
"Our studies have shown that there is a dire need for athletic training facilities such as this. We’re confident this is the right place for it," applicant Stephen Calandrino said at that meeting.
At the April 30 meeting, Richard M. Caro, president of Management Vision, was presented as an expert to attest to the market feasibility of the Marlboro Sports Center. Caro said he has worked full-time in the health club industry, has owned and operated facilities and now works as a consultant for many of them.
"I have had assignments in 46 states and seven countries. I have had 1,300 different assignments. I have visited more than 5,000 clubs and have conducted over 700 market feasibility studies. I have written over 200 articles, given over 400 speeches and written one text book on the industry," Caro said.
Caro said he had conducted his market research by collecting and assessing demographic information from drive-by studies at intersections. In visiting each of 12 competing locations in the area and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, Caro said he found Marlboro Sports Center to be superior.
"Marlboro Sports Center has substantial advantages as it is proposing a market not already being served in the population," he said.
Board member Steven Sukel questioned the methods Caro used to conduct the market research study.
"Where is the empirical data in this report?" he asked. "I see nothing that backs up your claims so that it looks like a summary of your opinions. It seems like just because we’re in Marlboro and in Monmouth [County], that you said this is a good site."
Board Vice Chairman Eric Menaker also had some questions about the methods used.
"Are there any other firms besides yours that use this method?" he asked. "Our traffic engineer uses generally accepted measurements in his traffic studies, methods that our board and other boards know are acceptable. But I’m struggling with the method used here."
Menaker also inquired about URSA, a trade association Caro founded. Caro explained that facilities must pay a fee to join URSA and can be suspended for not adhering to guidelines. URSA has 7,000 members in seven countries, he said, noting that the vice chairman of the New York Sports Club sits on the board of trustees.
"But if someone doesn’t feel that they can benefit and they choose not to benefit, that’s their choice," he said.
Attorney John Lamb, representing the opposing party, Town Sports International, trading as New York Sports Club, had questions for the market researcher as well. He had opposed the hearing earlier on the basis of improper notification to the public. It was determined by the board, however, that the applicant’s notice of the public hearing was acceptable.
"I don’t think he should put this facility in the LI Zone," Lamb said, explaining his client’s opposition to the proposed application.
The hearing was continued to a Zoning Board meeting scheduled for June 18.