By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Jan 08, 2018 at 6:11 PM Photography: Bobby Tanzilo

Late last year, the Milwaukee Athletic Club announced that it was partnering with Joshua Jeffers of J. Jeffers & Co and Tony Janowiec of Interstate Development Partners, LLC – who are both MAC members – on a $30 million renovation set to begin next autumn.

This was big news, for sure. But another partnership that hasn’t had quite as much buzz is the club’s new affiliation with Elite Sports Clubs. Recently I had lunch with Tom Karrels, vice president of Elite Sports Clubs, and David Kriete, Milwaukee Athletic Club's board president. We talked about the partnership and the future of both clubs, among other things. Kay Yuspeh, the founder of Elite, also answered some questions via e-mail.  

OnMilwaukee: Give us the background of Elite.

Kay Yuspeh: The tennis boom was in the early 1970s, tennis and racquetball clubs were popping up everywhere back then. However, in the decades since, health, fitness, sports, and recreation have become much more diverse. Families wanted more out of their club. That’s why Elite’s business model is purchasing existing tennis clubs and converting them to multipurpose clubs for the entire family.

Here's the history: Brookfield was purchased in 1986, North Shore was purchased 1992, West Brookfield was purchased in 2002, Mequon was purchased in 2005 and River Glen (the old Le Club) was purchased in 2012.

What about the MAC?

David Kriete: The Milwaukee Athletic Club was organized March 31, 1879 as the Milwaukee Athletic Society and was incorporated in 1882. The name was changed to The Milwaukee Athletic Club Jan. 19, 1898. Prior to erecting the current clubhouse in 1917 at 758 N. Broadway, the club moved between 6 other locations as it grew to nearly 1100 Members when they decided to purchase the land and build the building in 1917 that is now known as the MAC.

Founded by the athletic minded business professionals of Milwaukee in its day, the club has thrived as a cornerstone of the City of Milwaukee. Throughout its rich history the club has been home to many Olympic Athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and business professionals over its life.

The MAC provides exceptional dining, event, social business and athletic programs throughout the club to its Members and guests. With 60 hotel rooms, private Women’s and co-ed fitness spaces, two pools, three racquetball, two squash, basketball court, three restaurants, roof top bar and patio and about 70,000 square feet of event space. The club offers a variety of settings venues and opportunities for members to enjoy.

Recently, you announced a "partnership" how does it work and how is it priced?

Kriete: It is a true partnership where all the members of the Milwaukee Athletic Club have access to the Elite Sports Clubs. And all the Elite VIP level members have access to the MAC. The monthly dues of this level of membership are $199 for the entire family for Members of either club.

What are the trends for clubs?

Karrels and Yuspeh: Millennials seem poised to shake up the club industry with new expectations around membership, communication, community, events, dues, and more. However, it also turns out that many of the intangibles that millennials say they want are similar to what many clubs already can do and are doing. But, everyone wants custom options. How do you address?

Both Elite and the MAC excel in providing its members with a fully array of social, athletic, civic and professional programming around the club. Both clubs host many events, parties and gatherings, along with multiple and diverse fitness options within each facility. All of the members can pick and choose whatever they want. Together, we are a "one stop shop" for all your social, recreational, professional and fitness needs.

What are the new innovations in the health and fitness world, and what doesn’t the Milwaukee area have?

Yuspeh: Many "old" ideas are being brought back. Studios are opening with a single purpose. Elite offers all those programs in one place at one fee. Our yoga program in particular rivals many private studios. Our trainers are all nationally certified and extremely knowledgeable.

Further, as tracking your personal fitness – on a smart phone or Fitbit, etc. – becomes more and more popular, both Elite and the MAC fully support the use of personal electronics in all fitness classes and leagues. Many times this data is used to support health insurance plans at members’ employers.

The MAC and Elite offer far more the a "gym" experience. The MAC offers Social and Business Networking opportunities, as well as a vast array of athletic, social and business oriented programming. Together, Elite and the MAC offer a true full-service Membership experience that lends itself to a comprehensive offering. All of the new options offer a single-purpose "gym-only" facility. The MAC and Elite offer a Member Experience.

How do you guys work out?

Karrels: Currently, I'm into cardio and strength training workouts, but over the years I feel like I’ve tried pretty much everything.

Kriete: I enjoy instructor-lead classes and basketball leagues. As I’ve aged it seems that I’ve lost my ability to push myself, so taking advantage of leagues and classes are my go-to.

What trends do you see in the club space? What do you like and don’t like?

Yuspeh: Elite has a preschool, swim lessons, tennis lessons, dance lessons, karate lessons, music lessons, plus the new Quad – an activities and sports campus right in the club. The spaces in larger multi-purpose clubs are constantly changing and we are always evaluating our current facilities, converting and innovating as our membership continues to grow and change. We also have studio space dedicated to small group training and a cardio theater. We also have all the recreational sports such as tennis, basketball, volleyball, ping pong, swimming, racquetball and paddleball. Of course, I like everything that we have added, and can’t wait to see what the future brings.

Kriete: The MAC is working with fitness industry leaders and designers to define a massive update to their fitness facilities, looking at everything from equipment, programing, spaces and flow, we are really excited to see what they roll out as they take their historic property to a state of the art fitness facility, unrivaled in the city.

If you had a magic wand for greater Milwaukee, what three things would you change?

Yuspeh: I would introduce all children to the lifetime sport of tennis in the schools. It is competitive, social, and fun at all levels and ages.

Define success.

Yuspeh: To me, success is having great facilities at our clubs, great programs that everyone wants to attend, and the great staff (like we already have). 

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.