Some news broke today (Sept. 25) that a company from New York plans some big investment in Metro Hartford. That’s great news.
Town Sports International (TSI) is opening up a health club with a pool and all the normal gym amenities in West Hartford Center at the new Blue Back Square Development. Anytime someone from somewhere else comes to our state to spend money, it is great news.
Blue Black Square is a complex that includes retail, restaurants, housing, entertainment and office space and more. It is named after West Hartford native son Noah Webster, the dictionary guy. The project is very local. The architecture is Connecticut and it looks very Connecticut. It’s going to be great.
Let’s talk about TSI. It operates hundreds of health clubs in the northeast and they have a local flair. Those in the New York metro area are called New York Sports Clubs, in the metro Washington D.C. area they are called Washington Sports Clubs, in the metro Boston area they are called Boston Sports Clubs, and in metro Philadelphia they are called Philadelphia Sports Clubs. It is a great concept because it makes people feel as if they are working out at a local club, even though it is a chain. Presumably if they expanded to Miami, they would be called Miami Sports Clubs.
The West Hartford location will be TSI’s first in the metro Hartford area, and, according to a press release, more health clubs are planned for our area. This is great news. Imagine “Hartford Sports Clubs” all over the region, perhaps at Front Street, Glastonbury and Evergreen Walk — just like the New York Sports Clubs, only with local identity.
But wait. TSI will not be calling these health clubs “Hartford Sports Clubs.” Get this: They will be called “New York Sports Clubs!”
What an insult to Hartford, West Hartford and the entire state. This area is not a suburb of New York City. In fact, Blue Back Square is closer to Boston than it is to New York, and we’re not a suburb of Boston, either.
Hartford has its own suburbs. Every other club TSI operates is named for the metro area where the gym is located. Why can’t West Hartford be treated the same way? Is something wrong with us?
This is its own metro area: The 28th largest television market in the country. We have newspapers, an airport, radio stations, televisions stations and the list goes on.
I talked with a spokeswoman for TSI, Lisa Hufcut, who gave me a few reasons for TSI’s spurning of the Hartford name. First, she told me the New York name was the biggest of its four divisions and was recognizable. I’ll buy that. Then, why isn’t the whole chain called New York Sports Clubs? Because it wouldn’t fly in Boston, and it shouldn’t fly in Hartford.
The next reason I was given was that TSI already operates eight clubs in Connecticut, all called New York Sports Clubs. Those clubs are in Fairfield County, which is the New York metro area. Again, West Hartford is in the Hartford metro area. If TSI wants to use the statewide argument, then why aren’t all New Jersey clubs called NYSC? Those in metro Philly are called PSC.
If the entire chain was called New York Sports Clubs, I wouldn’t have a problem; that would be their brand. But TSI caters to each region, it just doesn’t want to cater to ours.
Thank you TSI for chipping away at our identity.