If finding and paying for a great location is the biggest issue facing new sports facility owners, the next biggest hurdle is finding and paying for the equipment for that facility.
To figure out what you really need and how you should pay for it, start by reviewing your business plan.
1. Make a List of Equipment You’ll Need.
Take a another look at the activities you described in the “products and services” section of your mission section. What equipment do you need, minimum, to offer those products and services? Make a list, and keep it simple. Upgrades and new features can always be added later. Stick to the essentials and save your cash for operating expenses and emergencies.
If you’re opening a baseball and athletic training facility like mine, your list will probably include some combination of these things:
- pitching machines
- computers and other technology for staff
- desks and furniture
- weight room, weights, fitness equipment
Review your list. Each piece of major equipment should have a clear spot in your business plan, but it should ALSO have its own mini-business plan. That basically means if a piece of equipment can’t easily cover its own costs, you need to re-think whether you should invest in it. (Click here to read more about how to create those “mini-business plans.”)
2. Find the Best Ways to Buy
Now that you have your list of essential equipment, you need to find the best and most affordable way to get each piece.
Here are some guidelines:
- If you’re not a “do-it-yourselfer,” consider buying new. Are you good with home projects and construction? This is NOT the time to try to become a handyman. The professional installation costs and warranties included in the price of new equipment can be well worth it. Don’t take risks with the important stuff.
- If you ARE a “do-it-yourselfer,” buying used is usually the way to go. I’m not exactly Bob Vila, but I’m pretty comfortable with hands-on stuff. This allowed me to get great deals on used pitching machines and fitness equipment and enlist staff and friends to help me move it and re-assemble it at DNA Sports Center.
- Can’t afford new? Consider financing. Remember, cash is king. If you can’t afford the full cost of new equipment, look for a financing deal. Your rates will depend on the current market, your own credit score and on the type of equipment you want to finance. (For example, it’s easier to get a good rate on equipment that a bank could sell on if you defaulted – such as a pitching machine.)
- Be careful and get referrals. Many of my sports facility software clients have had to delay their openings because of problems with the suppliers they chose to work with. Don’t choose based on price alone; get referrals from people you trust. (If you want to talk to me about my own supplier for equipment like turf and netting, just email me via this contact form. My guy’s name is Matt and I’ll put you in touch with him.)
3. Save as Much as you Can
Here are some ways I saved on equipment when I was starting out:
- Craigslist. This is a gold mine for deals on used weights and strength training equipment.
- Turf fragments. If your turf area is small enough, you may be able to use leftover fragments instead of paying full price. I used a turf fragment for our running track.
- Comparing offers. Quote as many manufacturers as you can for the big items, and don’t forget to consider the cost of shipping, installation, and maintenance when you get the quotes.
- Negotiation and patience. When I was searching for a home for my sports performance center, I found a space that had previously been a sports training center and had closed down. I knew that the owners were anxious to get rid of the responsibility of the building and get back some of their investment. I offered them an easy out; I’d get them out of their lease AND take all of the equipment off of their hands … but I was only going to pay pennies on the dollar for the equipment. They didn’t agree right away, but after a few weeks they realized they would lose more by paying for another month of rent and utilities on a building they were no longer using than by giving me a great price. Patience pays off!
If you have any advice or questions on buying sports facility equipment, please leave a comment below.
A prior version of this article appeared on the blog in 2014.