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Hamilton Gym Named Best in New Zealand

First Place Fitness was named New Zealand Fitness Centre of the Year at the Fitness Life Awards on Friday 28 August 2009. The black tie event, held at the Hyatt Regency in Auckland, recognises excellence in all areas of the fitness industry. The awards are presented following a demanding judging process including review of the entry, a series of mystery shopper visits, phone calls and interviews. A winning fitness centre must demonstrate outstanding customer satisfaction, membership growth and retention, staff retention, quality in the fitness industry and service to the community.

The fifth annual Fitness Life Awards, hosted by fitness ambassador Suzy Clarkson, featured guest speaker Hon Murray McCully, Minister for Sport, Foreign Affairs and the Rugby World Cup 2011. Ex All Black Josh Kronfeld and Fitness New Zealand’s Richard Beddie also graced the stage. The judging panel included Dr Nigel Harris (AUT senior lecturer in fitness and exercise) and invited guest judges Hon Rodney Hide (minister for Local Government) and Dr Alice Boyes (social and clinical psychologist).

Owners Tony Brunton and Ryan Johnston opened First Place Fitness in Hamilton in September 2006 after seeing a gap in the market for a gym that focused on customer service. They set about creating an atmosphere that lived up to their slogan of ‘the friendliest gym in Hamilton’. Originally from the South Island, Tony and Ryan moved to Hamilton to complete their degrees in Sport and Exercise Science at WINTEC. After working in management positions for other gyms in the city they wanted more scope to implement their vision of a welcoming, non-intimidating fitness centre where everyone from the novice gym user to the elite sportsperson is catered for.

The latest awards cap an amazing period of growth and success for First Place Fitness. The club received the runner up award in 2008 in the North Island Fitness Centre category. Tony Brunton says “To go one better this year and take out the top prize was certainly our goal, but to actually beat out the major franchises throughout New Zealand is an incredible feat for an independent”. Ryan Johnston adds “Our success is due in no small part to the incredible loyalty of our members. I believe this comes from gathering a great staff around us who reinforce our ideals of customer service and satisfaction”.

From Fitness Life Press Release:

Debitsuccess North Island Fitness Centre of the Year, Over 1000 Members
First Place Fitness, Tony Brunton & Ryan Johnston
Judges’ citation:
What fantastic growth! This unified and genuine team shows great pride in both the facility and service they provide, led by two innovative and closely involved owners who show a real commitment to investing in facility growth and improvement. Its great facility and genuine customer service clearly delivers results.

Debitsuccess New Zealand Fitness Centre of the Year
First Place Fitness, Tony Brunton & Ryan Johnston
Judges’ citation:
Proving it deserves its title of ‘First Place Fitness’, Tony and Ryan have done an outstanding job of transforming the facility and services on offer here since purchasing the business two years ago. They have systematically created a staff culture where member satisfaction and facility care have lead to a thriving club.

An award winning fitness centre

First Place Fitness Club was named runner up as top North Island Gym at the annual Fitness Life Awards 2008. First Place Fitness Club was the only gym south of the Bombays to receive an award in the top award category.

Owned and operated by Ryan Johnston and Tony Brunton, First Place Fitness opened in September 2006 and this was the fi rst year they had entered the awards. Tony said it was great to be mixing it with the big players of the industry and to have a Waikato gym in the nominations.

Entrants were judged by “mystery shoppers” on criteria including membership growth and numbers, how they differ from other centres, customer care and service, staff retention, motivated employees and driving quality in the fitness industry.

Tony said the difference at First Place was they strive to be the friendliest gym in the Waikato – non lycra wearing – and their involvement with community health and fitness issues, Sport Waikato and Wintec.