Syufy Brothers: Expertise Shapes New Rec Center

naIf the plans for SMC’s new Joseph L. Alioto Recreation Center resemble a modern fitness club more than a traditional sweat-stained college gym, it’s no coincidence.

The recreation center, scheduled to open in early 2015, was inspired in part by a groundbreaking new fitness chain created by Raymond Syufy ’84 and Joseph Syufy ’87, two SMC alumni who have long supported the College.

The Syufy brothers were stars in the entertainment industry for many years as the owners of the Century Theatres chain. After they sold it in 2006, they turned to health clubs or, as the Silicon Valley Business Journal put it, “from silver screen to sweat empire.”

Now they’re revolutionizing the health club industry with a new kind of upscale athletic club aimed at families instead of single people. The fitness chain, VillaSport, offers more than a workout space; it offers waterslides, whirlpools and special kids-only areas. In fact, said Ray, “more than a third of the members are children.”

“Family is important to both of us. Movie theatres, restaurants, health clubs—they’re all family hospitality businesses,” said Joe.

Saint Mary’s has always been a part of the Syufy family, the brothers said. Their father, Raymond J. Syufy, was a 1940 graduate and a trustee, and Joe’s wife, Michelle, graduated in 1988. As children, they got to know many of the Brothers, who often visited the Syufy family home.

When the College first started dreaming of a new recreation center, Ray was on the Board of Trustees. He flew then-president Brother Ronald Gallagher and several other college officials to Colorado Springs, where the Syufys had just opened their first VillaSport club.

As a result, when the new recreation center opens, it will sport a number of features that would be the envy of any fitness club, like the outdoor competition-size swimming pool, climbing wall, juice bar and social areas where students can mingle.