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NEW YORK CITY-Lifetime Fitness will ramp up its expansion plans with the opening of 21 new fitness clubs in the next three years as the firm moves toward gaining a presence in several major markets, company officials said.

“We are a growth company,” Michael Robinson, the firm’s executive vice president and chief financial officer said during a presentation at the Thomas Weisel Partners Consumer Conference 2005, held Tuesday at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York City. “As we look out in the future we see what we believe is significant growth opportunities in the top metropolitan centers.”

Robinson said Lifetime Fitness plans to open six fitness centers this year, seven next year and eight in 2007 at an average cost of $22 million each as it moves towards national expansion. The company currently operates 44 centers primarily in suburban locations in eight states in the Midwest, Southwest and Maryland.

Plans call for a quick ramp up of new and existing Lifetime Fitness Centers to increase membership to 11,500 members per club within the first three years after opening, Robinson said. In addition, the firm also plans to increase its offering of on-site paid activities and focus future efforts on increasing member spending at its spas and cafes to boost the firm’s profit level. The company also intends to boost its merchandising effort for Lifetime Fitness Center branded goods, he said.

Along with its expansion push, company president and chief executive officer Bahram Akradi said Lifetime Fitness also is working closely with a number of insurance companies, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, to make its fitness programs available to health insurance firms. Akradi said Lifetime Fitness is currently involved in a five year test program in Minneapolis to offer discounted rates to health insurance members and is likely to continue that program as it expands to other markets.

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