Matt Lillie was lying on his back at an ashram in India searching for peace and calm when inspiration first struck for what would become Opti-Life Health and Fitness Center.
Even though he was working out regularly, Lillie says he realized he was not in the best shape he could be.
“I looked at why that was and looked at what I wanted.”
Initially, he envisioned a place that would be about health education. It morphed into much more.
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Even as Lillie and business partner Tien Huynh purchased ground just east of Granite City near 21st and Webb Road and began plans for a 34,000-square-foot building, and even as they formed a group of 24 investors – mostly physicians – they didn’t answer reporters’ questions to explain what Opti-Life is.
That’s because they didn’t fully know.
Lillie is the founder of Physicians Development Group, which develops and operates skilled nursing facilities, assisted living centers and memory-care units, among other things.
Now, after five years of planning, Lillie can sum up Opti-Life in one sentence.
“It’s a mental, physical ... holistic experience,” he says.
“I see what happens when you don’t have these things in your life,” Lillie says. “Nobody wants to be in a nursing home, but yet our nursing homes are full. Why is that?”
Opti-Life will be somewhere “to really become healthy – not just from lifting weights or working out,” Lillie says. “You can’t outwork a bad diet.”
The center, which opens Jan. 1, will have a 2,000-square-foot education room, including a display kitchen, for nutritional and other health information.
“For me, it was as much about education as it was about actually working out,” Lillie says.
However, fitness will be a big part of Opti-Life.
Lillie will have TechnoGym equipment from Italy, which he says is easier on joints and allows for better recovery times.
“It’s basically the best fitness equipment … in the industry.”
All of it integrates and syncs with an app.
“It’ll track what you do inside and outside the facility,” Lillie says.
There will be a weight floor with free weights and pin machines. There will be rooms for yoga, pilates, spin classes and zumba along with a barre studio and a cardio loft with bikes and rowers.
There will be a functional training room with TRX and weight-bearing classes.
There will be a cardio cinema with a dozen treadmills where runners, led by an instructor, can train for races by running treadmill races against others.
“The industry calls it gamification,” Lillie says. “For me it was more engaging and more entertaining.”
Lillie says there will be diagnostic equipment, including 3D scanners, to measure how people progress.
“It really gives us a snapshot of what’s going on in the inside.”
There also will be a spa with hydro massage beds and roller beds.
“You can come and just relax,” Lillie says.
There will be a sauna that uses infrared heat that “penetrates deeper into your skin” than traditional saunas, he says.
A Himalayan salt sauna will have a wall that’s about five inches think with Himalayan salt blocks to help people feel invigorated.
“It gives off negatively charged ions similar to what you get off the ocean,” Lillie says. “They kind of give you a feeling of well being.”
Lillie says he wants Opti-Life to be a social place, too, with a cafe and lounge area and a 2000-square-foot rooftop terrace for things such as sunrise yoga.
There’s a quarter-mile outdoor walking and jogging path that goes around a couple of ponds in a parklike setting.
“For me it was a lifestyle thing,” Lillie says.
“How do we build a community of people who care about health and fitness?” he says. “How do we help people really feel inspired, feel transformed?”
He says it’s about a collective experience.
Lillie says he did extensive market research to see what people might want in the center and what similar facilities elsewhere offered.
This could be the first of several Opti-Life centers.
For now, though, Lillie says, “I’m really just focused on this one and seeing how it performs and seeing how people embrace it.”
He anticipates needing 3,200 to 3,500 members to make Opti-Life work.
“We don’t need 10,000 members to make this work,” Lillie says. “It wasn’t about being the biggest. It was about providing the most impact.”
There will be four tiers of month-to-month memberships ranging from $60 to $130. A membership trailer is now open in front of the business, which is at 9758 E. 21st St.
So far, Opti-Life has about 50 charter members, who will be able to use the facility starting in December as part of a soft opening.
Jill Hattan, president and CEO of Don Hattan Dealerships, is one of them.
“It sounds like he’s doing a completely unique concept to Wichita,” says Hattan, who already has a gym membership that she says she’ll probably drop once Opti-Life opens.
Hattan says she’s intrigued at the Opti-Life mission “of integrating the mind, body, spirit.”
She says she likes the idea of more of a lifestyle approach, which Hattan says “may be a better fit for me.”
It’s about “how can I maximize what I’m doing,” she says. “I think it’s going to be a great thing for Wichita.”
Lillie says he chose the 21st and Webb Road area in part because it’s a near a medical corridor.
Opti-Life is “just more preventative than reactive.”
“For me it’s all about intention and purpose,” Lillie says.
Like the ashram inspired him, Lillie says his hope is to “inspire people to live the life they want to live.”
“To live a healthier life. … To live a more engaged life. … That’s my hope for Opti-Life.”