The Fort Worth Club
A culture of wellness
Business View Magazine interviews Michael Thackerson, Manager of The Fort Worth Club, for our focus on the Health & Fitness Sector
There is a beautiful Classic Revival-style legacy building in downtown Fort Worth, Texas that occupies an entire city block. Emblazoned with a large brass plaque that reads “The Fort Worth Club,” the over-a-century-old, by-invitation-only, grand establishment stands proud as a place of gathering and exchange, offering the same exceptional service and an uncompromising standard of excellence as was set when it was officially chartered by the state of Texas on June 10, 1885.
For more than 135 years, the member-owned facility has helped define and influence its city’s distinctive charm, and today’s social club looks and feels like a continuation of that conversation that was started alongside Fort Worth’s rise to metropolitan status. With four restaurants, 13 banquet rooms, 21 boutique guest rooms, and a 35,000-square-foot fitness and wellness facility known as the Athletic Center, it is a remarkable institution in every sense of the word.
“We’ve have a lot of deep history in the area and in the context of private clubs,” shares Michael Thackerson, Club Manager. “We’re one of the oldest city clubs in the South. We’ve been ranking in the Top 10 Platinum City Clubs of America for a number of years, as well as the Platinum Clubs of the World. Half of the current building we occupy was built in 1926. The addition with the parking garage and the bulk of the Athletic Center, those were added in 1976.”
After vacating their former home in the building now occupied by The Ashton Hotel, The Fort Worth Club erected in 1926 a grand 12-story high-rise facility featuring suites intended for use by prominent members. Club President Amon G. Carter hosted many prestigious guests there (including Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson), and the new club quickly became the social epicentre of beautiful downtown ‘Cowtown’ – named so because Fort Worth was then one of the top cattle markets in the nation.
“Having these hotel rooms is consistent with what you see at most of the larger city clubs across the country,” Thackerson offers. “Private clubs like ours were created around the idea of business travel, so they’re a nice amenity for us to have.”
The Fort Worth Club also hosts around 50 weddings a year, providing full-service accommodation with flexible venue spaces and on-site catering options. “That’s a huge selling point,” Thackerson maintains. “It’s nice to be able to put wedding guests up at the club. We call them a member-for-a-day. They’re able to use the restaurants, along with the athletic and fitness facilities, during their stay.”
Speaking to the evolution of The Fort Worth Club, the athletic facilities are now one of the crown jewels of the Club’s various amenities. Spanning 35,000 square feet, the complex houses a gymnasium, swimming pool, spa, sauna, and luxurious locker room accommodations. “Basketball leagues, racquetball, squash, and handball play are a time-honored tradition here,” Thackerson says. “Sport was the foundation. The fitness piece unfolded from there.”
The Athletic Center also provides spacious cardio and weight studios, an expanded line of group fitness studios, and 35+ complimentary classes ranging from studio cycle and strength classes to yoga and TRX.
“In 2009, we made the conscious decision to provide capital for our athletic facilities,” Thackerson explains. “We’ve invested over $5 million in the Athletic Center since then and our focus now is the question: how do we become one of the top fitness facilities in any city club across the country?”
One of the ways this objective is being approached is through top-notch partnerships with companies such as TechnoGym, Impact Cryotherapy, and Sunlighten Infrared Saunas, who are each industry leader and pillar in the fitness and wellness world.
“Access to state-of-the-art technology is a big part of what we’re looking for in entering into these partnerships,” Thackerson insists. “That includes anything from different items of fitness equipment and wearable personal training systems to ‘how do I get a full-body workout in less than 30 minutes?’. TechnoGym has a brand new technology called the Biocircuit, which is an adaptive circuit training workout that uses artificial intelligence to adjust all of the machines for you. You scan in with a key fob or a code and it remembers every workout you’ve ever done. It presents you with a workout for the day based on your results from your prior workout. These breakthroughs in precision training are definitely something we’re interested in adding in and staying at the forefront of.”
Another aspect of the Athletic Center’s mission involves striving to be more wellness-minded. With this comes the promise of introducing more programs and amenities that aid in expanding its members’ health span to meet their life span. “The average life span is about 78 years old in America, but our health span – the number of years that we live healthy, feeling good – is only about 66 years,” notes Director of Wellness Ashli Davenport. “And so one of our main goals is to provide those specialty services and partnerships for our members, to stretch their health span and give them ten more quality years of life where they’re feeling good, able to move well, and are free of major chronic disease.”
Davenport acknowledges that it’s an added convenience for members to have everything under one roof, from nutrition and whole-body cryotherapy to detoxification and use of infrared saunas. “We have the facilities to do it all here in the Athletic Center, which I feel is one of the reasons why our wellness services have been so successful,” she comments. “Members can show up and trust we’ve developed partnerships with cutting-edge services and technologies which are credible and research-based.”
Hired in 2013, Davenport, a registered & licensed dietitian, first brought nutrition counselling into the fold. Since then, the club has generously expanded its wellness activities, adding in more tailored and supportive programs designed to reinforce a healthy and active lifestyle. “Through the years, we’ve continued to evolve in that direction which makes our members more wellness-minded. These group programs have helped our members become more mindful of wellness and tune into their bodies,” notes Davenport.
Thackerson and Davenport work through many of the wellness programs themselves. “When we talk about education and training and pilot programs, that’s something we do all the time,” he says. “Whether it be a partnership, or a new technology, we want to learn about it before we release it to our members.”
After healthspan, the next big concept to target for The Fort Worth Club will be “the longevity mindset,” Thackerson says. He notes, “For the past two years, we’ve been working on a partnership with a company that’s rooted in this longevity world. Longevity to us means a few things under precision diagnostics. There are a lot of different technologies out there that can tell you your cardiac age. We’re working with them on a bio age, which takes into account your fitness levels, your bloodwork, your activity levels, and your sleep – basically everything you do on a daily basis. And this is made possible by the advent of wearables.”
In recent years, rapid improvements in the functionality of wearable technology have drastically increased the appeal of these devices for a much broader market. Thackerson asserts that wearables could represent “something huge” for the club by providing members with personalized insights on their body’s recovery, strain, sleep, and overall health.
“Instead of just a one-size-fits-all solution, we always look for opportunities to offer personalized wellness to each one of our members,” he says. “Recovery is another one of those huge opportunities. So much so that we’re looking into building a recovery lounge. Because recovery isn’t just for athletes, or for people who are at their peak fitness level. The average age at the club is 54, and we feel the recovery area will be of great advantage for our members.”
The Fort Worth Club is excited about the future and adapting new technology into members’ wellness mindsets. Thackerson says, “We feel we can add valuable years to our members’ lives by focusing on developing longevity programs which instill a wellness mindset. If we can increase our members’ health span to meet their life span, we will have achieved our mission.”
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AT A GLANCE
The Fort Worth Club
What: A premier social, business, and athletic club
Where: Fort Worth, Texas
Power Plate – www.powerplate.com
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