Supreme Sports Club succeeds by leaps and bounds : Special programs lure members

It's 9:30 on a weekday morning. Tyler and Benjamin Skalski -- 4 and 3 years old, respectively -- are getting their heart rates pumped in a brisk workout at Columbia's Supreme Sports Club.

"I have the Dalmatians tape! Have you seen it?" Tyler inquires of his trainer as he's encouraged to race his brother down a pint-sized basketball court and dunk a yellow ball into a net a tick taller than himself.


You wouldn't expect tykes like the energetic Skalski duo to frequent an athletic club. But the children's athletic program is among the many offerings that have made the Supreme Sports Club one of the Columbia Association's most successful financial ventures.

"This place is great. There is something here for the whole family," says the boys' mother, Tina Skalski.


She brings the children to the specialized child athletic program once a week. While they're bounding through the games geared to improving child motor skills, she's sweating it out in the packed morning aerobics class downstairs. On weekends, she and her husband make the club a family outing. They enjoy the Jacuzzi while the boys hit the baby pool.

"This club has been very, very good to us," says Bob Bellamy, director of club operations for the Columbia Association, which operates Columbia's array of recreation and culture programs and facilities.

In 1990, the association made the club its largest capital project, pouring $6.5 million into purchasing land and a combination construction/renovation effort to greatly expand the club's offerings.

The project involved expanding the existing club, a racquetball-oriented facility housed in one building, by constructing a new building next door to house a new pool, locker rooms and administrative offices. The two buildings are linked by an underground walkway.

The project also involved purchasing an indoor roller rink, called Skateland, located on an adjacent property.

That now doubles as a basketball and running track facility. Roller skating is allowed at certain times.

Before the expanded club was opened in October 1991, Mr. Bellamy and his staff projected it would see about 1,600 members daily.

A year after its opening, the club has an average of 2,000 members coming through the door daily -- 25 percent more than expected -- Mr. Bellamy said.


The club has the requisite array of Stairmasters, Lifecycles (always packed) and Nautilus exercise equipment.

But to make sure all age groups and athletic skill levels are accommodated, the club operates programs covering the gamut recreational athletics.

There are co-ed volleyball and basketball leagues for adults, youth basketball leagues, senior-oriented exercise programs and youth swim lessons.

There's even a separate weight-training room for young teens complete with Nautilus equipment designed specifically for young bodies.

The high usage of the expansive facility, tucked between a business park and shopping center off Snowden River Parkway, has made the athletic club a financial success, says Mr. Bellamy.

While Columbia's board of directors, the Columbia Council, frets over the financial drain some recreational facilities have become, there's no question the sports complex is helping to offset the stress of the money-losing facilities.


According to the association budget, the Supreme Sports Club will generate an estimated $3.7 million in revenue in 1993 -- a 25 percent rise over 1992.

Operating expenses in 1993 are projected at about $2.4 million, up from about $1.9 million this year.

The association's other athletic club facility, the Columbia Athletic Club, will generate an estimated $2.1 million in revenue and have operating costs of about $1.2 million.

The revenue that the Supreme Sports Club generates is boosted by fees charged for a variety of special exercise and health programs.

The fees range from a weight-reduction program, a private workout room exclusively for women, and the child exercise classes, operated by Kidsports, an international franchise.

While members say the club's vast array of recreational offerings and its attention to user-friendly detail (hand-size hair dryers are at every mirror in locker rooms), they also say they frequent the club because there really is no other major athletic facility within proximity of Columbia.


The closest other nearby clubs are in Laurel and Silver Spring.

That lack of options was one reason Columbia residents Lynn Jourdan and Cindy Copp joined up. Now they frequent the club four to five times a week to swim or workout on exercise equipment.

Their children and husbands also use the facility.

Mrs. Copp says she used to fret each month over the monthly bill for the family's package plan member ship and wonder if the expense was a good value. But after visiting other athletic clubs, she came to one conclusion.

"People here don't realize how spoiled they are," she said.