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Interview: Ralph Scholz

The MD of The Mirai – McFIT’s 20,000sq m, free-to-use mega club – speaks to Kate Cracknell about a business model that’s sending shockwaves through the industry

By Kate Cracknell, Health Club Management | Published in Health Club Management 2018 issue 7
Ralph Scholz / PressPhoto_Ralph_Scholz © McFIT Global Group
Ralph Scholz / PressPhoto_Ralph_Scholz © McFIT Global Group
We aim to establish The Mirai as a ‘fitness tourism’ attraction, to reinvigorate facilities in the region, enrich the broader fitness market and provide more people with access to fitness

When did you join McFIT?
I took over as CEO and MD of The Mirai on 1 July 2017, joining from Reed Exhibitions where I was event director with overall responsibility for the FIBO events in Cologne and China.
I joined the McFIT Global Group specifically to run The Mirai project. I believe it will be a unique platform for the fitness industry – something that has never been seen anywhere in the world – and I’m inspired to be contributing to such a mammoth project right from the outset.

What is The Mirai?
The Mirai is the latest project from McFIT. When it opens in early 2020, it will be the biggest fitness centre in the world: the site covers an area of 55,000sq m, with the floor space in the fitness hall set to measure 20,000sq m.

A huge diversity of fitness and sporting activities will be made accessible under the one roof, ensuring that every member will find the perfect physical activity pursuit, no matter what their motivation is to exercise.

Anyone who enjoys or is interested in exercise can meet, discover next-level training, help us develop the future and become part of the exercise movement.

Alongside its numerous sporting attractions, The Mirai will also offer a high level of socio-cultural added value, with space for shared activities, lively exchange and interpersonal connections. So whether you want to train alone or take part in a team sport; want time for yourself or the chance to hang out with friends; want to improve your health and fitness or simply have fun, The Mirai offers unparalleled opportunities.

However, although The Mirai will host the biggest gym in the world, there will be far more to it than that. It will also be a research laboratory – a new centre of competence for the industry that’s focused on R&D and collaboration with universities and training establishments.

In addition, it will be a year-round business-to-business platform for trade shows, conferences and events, as well as brand showrooms and partnerships.

Ultimately, we’re creating a centre for the fitness world that will bring consumers and the industry together. Our aim is to be able to welcome tens of thousands of visitors and members each day – over a million people each year. As soon as we have more precise figures, we’ll make these public.

What does Mirai mean?
Mirai means ‘future’ in Japanese, and in line with this name, we’ll use it to showcase new trends and concepts in a way that’s accessible. We’ll work with experts and clients to create optimised, personalised training experiences, develop cutting-edge concepts and bring our vision of the future of exercise to life.

Virtual reality will undoubtedly play a big role – ‘digitisation’ is a key word on all levels, both for us and our partners. Ultimately, The Mirai will focus on the experience as much as on the training.

The Mirai will be a pioneering project that never accepts the status quo, instead, it will consistently seek better solutions. It will no doubt exert a fundamental influence on the whole health and fitness industry.

What’s the location?
We’re investing €50m into the conversion of several old industrial buildings in Oberhausen, in the heart of the Ruhrgebiet region of Germany.

Oberhausen is one of Europe’s biggest conurbations, with 22 million people living within a 120 minute drive-time. Furthermore, 30 million day-trippers visit the city every year, making it an ideal location for The Mirai.

Why did McFIT decide to undertake this project?
The McFIT Global Group is always on the hunt for new fitness trends and innovations with which to inspire members, and we’ve had The Mirai in mind for a while now. When we first saw this extraordinary space in Oberhausen, we knew we’d found the right place to make our vision a reality.

Our vision is this: everything around us is in motion; movement is the defining principle of life, except that we humans are moving less and less. This leads to enormous challenges for society and for each of us as individuals. We believe the world becomes a better place when more people exercise, which is why we need The Mirai as a beacon project – something that will motivate millions of people to enjoy exercising more.

At the same time, The Mirai will bring together research, education, industry and people – and this alone will be an entirely new and fascinating approach.

All that said, however strong our conviction and belief in our vision, this unique complex will only be possible if we can pull together with strong partners by our side: each one individual, but working together for a healthier society.

Tell us about the partnerships
The business model of The Mirai can be compared to a platform concept: suppliers will rent space on the fitness floor of The Mirai, just like a 365-day trade show. This concept is commercially very appealing to our partners for various reasons: they have a central port of call in the most important urban centre in Europe, and they gain access to a relevant target group that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach directly.

Following the talks we’ve had so far, we’re very optimistic that more than 100 suppliers from various areas will present their offerings at The Mirai, with the potential to choose from spaces ranging from showrooms to trade stands.

In addition, we’re working with local fitness studios to understand how we can collaborate to best effect and to the benefit of both sides. The aim is to establish The Mirai as a tourist attraction with a fitness orientation – one that will reinvigorate fitness facilities in the region, enrich the broader market and provide more people with access to fitness.

Will The Mirai be free?
Yes, it will be open to all, with no monthly fees for people who want to exercise, making it accessible to everyone, regardless of age, origin or wealth.

We’re currently in the planning and concept phase, but in contrast to what some reports have suggested, selling members’ data is not part of our business model. Our aim is simply to make fitness and exercise available to all.

Of course, special services such as personal training will incur a charge. We’ll also be leasing showrooms, running research projects, events and conferences, and will earn income from sponsorships. Collaborations with businesses are also being fostered, as there are many possible synergies between The Mirai and our partners.

Overall, then, there are far more opportunities for co-operation than is the case with a normal fitness studio. This is one of the ways in which we will make up for the lack of membership revenue.

Will it make a profit?
The Mirai isn’t primarily about money – we perhaps wouldn’t be doing it if it were. Yes, we have to balance the books. However, when you’re the leading player in Europe’s fitness market, like McFit is, you have to find new challenges to tackle!

What are the biggest of these?
There’s no one central challenge; rather, it’s the complex interplay of the different tasks involved in creating The Mirai.

Co-ordinating the large number of parties involved is a huge task in a project of this size. Plans are underway for all areas at the same time, and it will ultimately have to be slotted together like a huge puzzle. To this end, we have put together a highly competent team to ensure all the cogs will fit together.

Will this be a one-off?
At the moment, we see The Mirai as a unique realisation of our vision, because Oberhausen presented us with the ideal location to create a new centre for the entire fitness world.

However, we don’t want to rule out the idea that we might transfer the concept to other urban locations in the world – in China, for example, or the US.

What’s the ultimate goal?
Looking to the future, I would like The Mirai to become a landmark project, not only for the region, but also worldwide.

It’s all about moving the world of fitness forward by elevating it to a new level of social relevance, thereby motivating more people to take up fitness and sport – even those who previously had no access to physical activity.

No comparable facility has yet been opened anywhere in the world and we’re excited to be the first to launch this model.

And if not us, then who? As Europe’s leader in the market, the McFIT Global Group stands for innovative concepts – and with The Mirai, we’re launching a pilot project that’s set to open up the future of movement to everyone.

What’s inside The Mirai?

• What’s inside The Mirai?

• An enormous training area divided into showrooms that display the full variety and the latest trends of the fitness world.

• SkyRun, an elevated running track that will extend for a kilometre through the entire hall.

• Kids’ gym where parents can leave their children under professional supervision while they enjoy some ‘me time’. This will also be used as a school sports hall.

• An obstacle course combining fitness and play.

• A ‘Future Lab’, which will showcase innovations in fitness and sport.

• Training area for seniors, including aqua fitness.

• Central meeting point with a healthy food and beverage offering, as well as fitness and sports shopping opportunities.

• Outdoor training area, including a keep-fit trail.

• Wide variety of events, from live courses for big groups to small-scale events, as well as media-based competitions and virtual training.

• The opportunity to get support from training and nutrition experts.

The Mirai
The Mirai
The Mirai
The Mirai
A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell / PHOTO: copyright © THE MIRAI
A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell / PHOTO: copyright © THE MIRAI
A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
 A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/693520_593397.jpg
The MD of The Mirai explains the strategy behind McFIT’s 20,000sq m, free-to-use mega gym, which will include a trade show element and aim to attract both locals and ‘fitness tourists’
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    features

    Interview: Ralph Scholz

    The MD of The Mirai – McFIT’s 20,000sq m, free-to-use mega club – speaks to Kate Cracknell about a business model that’s sending shockwaves through the industry

    By Kate Cracknell, Health Club Management | Published in Health Club Management 2018 issue 7
    Ralph Scholz / PressPhoto_Ralph_Scholz © McFIT Global Group
    Ralph Scholz / PressPhoto_Ralph_Scholz © McFIT Global Group
    We aim to establish The Mirai as a ‘fitness tourism’ attraction, to reinvigorate facilities in the region, enrich the broader fitness market and provide more people with access to fitness

    When did you join McFIT?
    I took over as CEO and MD of The Mirai on 1 July 2017, joining from Reed Exhibitions where I was event director with overall responsibility for the FIBO events in Cologne and China.
    I joined the McFIT Global Group specifically to run The Mirai project. I believe it will be a unique platform for the fitness industry – something that has never been seen anywhere in the world – and I’m inspired to be contributing to such a mammoth project right from the outset.

    What is The Mirai?
    The Mirai is the latest project from McFIT. When it opens in early 2020, it will be the biggest fitness centre in the world: the site covers an area of 55,000sq m, with the floor space in the fitness hall set to measure 20,000sq m.

    A huge diversity of fitness and sporting activities will be made accessible under the one roof, ensuring that every member will find the perfect physical activity pursuit, no matter what their motivation is to exercise.

    Anyone who enjoys or is interested in exercise can meet, discover next-level training, help us develop the future and become part of the exercise movement.

    Alongside its numerous sporting attractions, The Mirai will also offer a high level of socio-cultural added value, with space for shared activities, lively exchange and interpersonal connections. So whether you want to train alone or take part in a team sport; want time for yourself or the chance to hang out with friends; want to improve your health and fitness or simply have fun, The Mirai offers unparalleled opportunities.

    However, although The Mirai will host the biggest gym in the world, there will be far more to it than that. It will also be a research laboratory – a new centre of competence for the industry that’s focused on R&D and collaboration with universities and training establishments.

    In addition, it will be a year-round business-to-business platform for trade shows, conferences and events, as well as brand showrooms and partnerships.

    Ultimately, we’re creating a centre for the fitness world that will bring consumers and the industry together. Our aim is to be able to welcome tens of thousands of visitors and members each day – over a million people each year. As soon as we have more precise figures, we’ll make these public.

    What does Mirai mean?
    Mirai means ‘future’ in Japanese, and in line with this name, we’ll use it to showcase new trends and concepts in a way that’s accessible. We’ll work with experts and clients to create optimised, personalised training experiences, develop cutting-edge concepts and bring our vision of the future of exercise to life.

    Virtual reality will undoubtedly play a big role – ‘digitisation’ is a key word on all levels, both for us and our partners. Ultimately, The Mirai will focus on the experience as much as on the training.

    The Mirai will be a pioneering project that never accepts the status quo, instead, it will consistently seek better solutions. It will no doubt exert a fundamental influence on the whole health and fitness industry.

    What’s the location?
    We’re investing €50m into the conversion of several old industrial buildings in Oberhausen, in the heart of the Ruhrgebiet region of Germany.

    Oberhausen is one of Europe’s biggest conurbations, with 22 million people living within a 120 minute drive-time. Furthermore, 30 million day-trippers visit the city every year, making it an ideal location for The Mirai.

    Why did McFIT decide to undertake this project?
    The McFIT Global Group is always on the hunt for new fitness trends and innovations with which to inspire members, and we’ve had The Mirai in mind for a while now. When we first saw this extraordinary space in Oberhausen, we knew we’d found the right place to make our vision a reality.

    Our vision is this: everything around us is in motion; movement is the defining principle of life, except that we humans are moving less and less. This leads to enormous challenges for society and for each of us as individuals. We believe the world becomes a better place when more people exercise, which is why we need The Mirai as a beacon project – something that will motivate millions of people to enjoy exercising more.

    At the same time, The Mirai will bring together research, education, industry and people – and this alone will be an entirely new and fascinating approach.

    All that said, however strong our conviction and belief in our vision, this unique complex will only be possible if we can pull together with strong partners by our side: each one individual, but working together for a healthier society.

    Tell us about the partnerships
    The business model of The Mirai can be compared to a platform concept: suppliers will rent space on the fitness floor of The Mirai, just like a 365-day trade show. This concept is commercially very appealing to our partners for various reasons: they have a central port of call in the most important urban centre in Europe, and they gain access to a relevant target group that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach directly.

    Following the talks we’ve had so far, we’re very optimistic that more than 100 suppliers from various areas will present their offerings at The Mirai, with the potential to choose from spaces ranging from showrooms to trade stands.

    In addition, we’re working with local fitness studios to understand how we can collaborate to best effect and to the benefit of both sides. The aim is to establish The Mirai as a tourist attraction with a fitness orientation – one that will reinvigorate fitness facilities in the region, enrich the broader market and provide more people with access to fitness.

    Will The Mirai be free?
    Yes, it will be open to all, with no monthly fees for people who want to exercise, making it accessible to everyone, regardless of age, origin or wealth.

    We’re currently in the planning and concept phase, but in contrast to what some reports have suggested, selling members’ data is not part of our business model. Our aim is simply to make fitness and exercise available to all.

    Of course, special services such as personal training will incur a charge. We’ll also be leasing showrooms, running research projects, events and conferences, and will earn income from sponsorships. Collaborations with businesses are also being fostered, as there are many possible synergies between The Mirai and our partners.

    Overall, then, there are far more opportunities for co-operation than is the case with a normal fitness studio. This is one of the ways in which we will make up for the lack of membership revenue.

    Will it make a profit?
    The Mirai isn’t primarily about money – we perhaps wouldn’t be doing it if it were. Yes, we have to balance the books. However, when you’re the leading player in Europe’s fitness market, like McFit is, you have to find new challenges to tackle!

    What are the biggest of these?
    There’s no one central challenge; rather, it’s the complex interplay of the different tasks involved in creating The Mirai.

    Co-ordinating the large number of parties involved is a huge task in a project of this size. Plans are underway for all areas at the same time, and it will ultimately have to be slotted together like a huge puzzle. To this end, we have put together a highly competent team to ensure all the cogs will fit together.

    Will this be a one-off?
    At the moment, we see The Mirai as a unique realisation of our vision, because Oberhausen presented us with the ideal location to create a new centre for the entire fitness world.

    However, we don’t want to rule out the idea that we might transfer the concept to other urban locations in the world – in China, for example, or the US.

    What’s the ultimate goal?
    Looking to the future, I would like The Mirai to become a landmark project, not only for the region, but also worldwide.

    It’s all about moving the world of fitness forward by elevating it to a new level of social relevance, thereby motivating more people to take up fitness and sport – even those who previously had no access to physical activity.

    No comparable facility has yet been opened anywhere in the world and we’re excited to be the first to launch this model.

    And if not us, then who? As Europe’s leader in the market, the McFIT Global Group stands for innovative concepts – and with The Mirai, we’re launching a pilot project that’s set to open up the future of movement to everyone.

    What’s inside The Mirai?

    • What’s inside The Mirai?

    • An enormous training area divided into showrooms that display the full variety and the latest trends of the fitness world.

    • SkyRun, an elevated running track that will extend for a kilometre through the entire hall.

    • Kids’ gym where parents can leave their children under professional supervision while they enjoy some ‘me time’. This will also be used as a school sports hall.

    • An obstacle course combining fitness and play.

    • A ‘Future Lab’, which will showcase innovations in fitness and sport.

    • Training area for seniors, including aqua fitness.

    • Central meeting point with a healthy food and beverage offering, as well as fitness and sports shopping opportunities.

    • Outdoor training area, including a keep-fit trail.

    • Wide variety of events, from live courses for big groups to small-scale events, as well as media-based competitions and virtual training.

    • The opportunity to get support from training and nutrition experts.

    The Mirai
    The Mirai
    The Mirai
    The Mirai
    A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell / PHOTO: copyright © THE MIRAI
    A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell / PHOTO: copyright © THE MIRAI
    A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
    A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
     A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
    A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
    A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
    A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
    A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
    A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
    A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
    A wide range of sports and exercise facilities will be available free of charge at The Mirai, with personal training available as an upsell
    Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
    Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
    Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
    Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
    Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
    Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
    Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
    Part permanent trade show, part gym, The Mirai is a new business model from McFit that is looking to disrupt the market
    Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
    Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
    Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
    Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
    Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
    Indoor and outdoor fitness facilities will be available, along with retail and F&B operations located throughout the building
    http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/693520_593397.jpg
    The MD of The Mirai explains the strategy behind McFIT’s 20,000sq m, free-to-use mega gym, which will include a trade show element and aim to attract both locals and ‘fitness tourists’
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    Hedgehog Concept Ltd has developed software that allows its clients to track usage and customer volume on a minute to minute basis.
    Opinion: Is your software fit for COVID-19?
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    Featured supplier: myFitApp launches branded live-streaming as part of its COVID-19 support package
    Innovatise, the company behind myFitApp, has announced the immediate availability of its customer- branded live-streaming solution.
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    Featured supplier: What’s your Covid-19 exit strategy? How will you use this time to relaunch your business to thrive, not just survive
    There is no escaping the fact that we are operating in extraordinary times. Our physical health clubs, gyms and studios are closed and we’re trying to keep our membership engaged, fit and healthy via online and digital training.
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      13 Jun 2020
      Worldwide, Various,
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      06-07 Jul 2020
      Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
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      Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
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      21-24 Sep 2020
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      01-02 Oct 2020
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      11-12 Oct 2020
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      Messe Stuttgart, Germany
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