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A breath of fresh air

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There isn’t much you can’t do at Midtown Athletic Club, but when tennis buff Alan Schwartz opened the club with his partners in 1973, it was for tennis players.

It’s still a tennis venue today, with clay courts, hard courts, indoor and outdoor courts and paddle tennis, too, but forty- eight years later, it is so much more than that.

As Chicago-based CEO Steven Schwartz explains, it’s an “urban sports resort” tucked unobtrusively behind the Can of Worms in the city of Rochester. “The quality of life is good in Rochester, and Midtown contributes to that,” he says.

The club is nearing the end of a massive renovation project that began in the fall of 2019, before the pandemic.

“We’re down to the finishing touches,” says general manager Chrissy Gawens. Everything indoors has been renovated in some way and much of the outdoors, too.

The list of amenities and activities is a long one for young and old, every family member and every level of fitness.

Gawens seems to know everyone on a tour of the club at noon on a weekday, not an easy thing to do with about 4,000 members and a couple hundred employees. It’s like a cruise ship on land.


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Water is a big part of the experience, too—the eighty-two-degree outdoor pool is open through November.

Attendance at noon is higher than it used to be because people’s work and fitness habits have changed since the pandemic.

Finding enough employees is a challenge many industries face today, including this one.

Gawens is proof you can make a good career out of it. She began working here at nineteen and has worked in many positions in seventeen collective years, from front desk to general manager.

“Our concept is to have a collection of high-end [services] under one roof,” Schwartz says.

“We’re in the hospitality business, Gawens says. It’s your second home. We want to make things as convenient as possible.” Toward that end, Schwartz is always looking for ways to improve the Midtown experience.

That includes a quiet area for those who can work remotely and need a space to meet clients, in addition to all things fitness related. Have a party or business event, get a massage, have lunch, have your nails done, drop off your kids for camp and get your dry cleaning done, too.

The list of services rendered here is endless. One of the only things you can’t do is stay overnight, but you could even do that at the downtown Chicago club.

Ironically, it didn’t take a pandemic for Schwartz to decide he wanted the best bacteria-killing air cleaning system possible for his clubs located here and in Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, and Montreal.

“Health clubs have terrific ventilation, but there are rooms that just smell,” he explains. Children’s facilities with diapers and the boxing area are good examples.Wrestling is one of few activities Midtown doesn’t offer but news of an airborne infection at college wrestling facilities added to Schwartz’s desire to clean the club’s air even more than they normally would.

Schwartz was impressed with a trade show presentation from a company called airPHX, which had success keeping hospital air fresh and safe. He began installing the units all over his clubs, not just problem areas, right before the COVID-19 airborne virus struck in 2019.

Members may not have noticed the air transformation system as much before the pandemic, but they have a heightened awareness and are more conscious of air quality now, Gawens says.The airPHX units effectively treat surface areas, too.

There were no COVID-19 outbreaks in any of Midtown’s clubs.

The commitment to cleanliness and maintaining a bacteria-free environment doesn’t stop with air quality. Midtown makes its own chemical-free cleaning solution on site.

People should be coming in droves, Schwartz says, but the reality is they’re coming in (or back) slowly. Still, he says, the prognosis is even better than it was before COVID, since current and future members are going to like what they see—and breathe—at the Highland Avenue club.

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