On September 2, 1872, young gymnast J.C. Aleix founded a gym that, unbeknownst to him at the time, would become a fitness epicenter for the city of New Orleans that would last for decades.
The New Orleans Athletic Club (NOAC) in New Orleans, La. is as rich in history as the city it calls home. From the start, with membership dues at 50 cents per month, the facility has found it necessary to evolve with the times, and has survived through several different name and location changes. NOAC, its current namesake, was born on March 9, 1929.
Michael J. Walters, the general manager at NOAC, is proud to build off of the traditional foundation the club has established. Situated in the heart of the historic French Quarter, “we are a sanctuary of retreat for mind and body, just minutes from the hustle of infamous Bourbon Street,” he boasted.
While the unique venue has attracted many celebrities over the years, including Clark Gable, Bob Hope and Art Linkletter, the every-day members at NOAC are also valued and honored. In fact, there are several members who have been with the club for over 50 years. “There is no gimmicky marketing or sales techniques,” explained Walters. “We want members for life.”
NOAC demands consistency and honesty from its staff and takes advice from the feedback it gets from members. With this open-door communication style, it is understandable why members feel at home. “We don’t always get everything right, but we strive to improve on every level, every day,” said Walters.
This is a one-of-a-kind architectural gem. After all, working out under a chandelier and next to a fireplace isn’t exactly common. Keeping up with the tradition while staying current, modern and up-to-date in the industry, is what sets NOAC apart from the rest. “That’s what we have here — an exuberant history helps us create a sophisticated future,” continued Walters. “We have the charm of the past, but all the great toys that the future members want!”
Members have access to a variety of amenities and features including an indoor pool and track, a full-service bar serving smoothies, food and cocktails, a library and luxurious locker rooms, an array of classes, and state-of-the-art cardio and strength equipment.
Unsurprisingly, it is important for NOAC to honor the past. After the four-story club withstood wind and flood damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the gym, like many businesses in the area, had to close down. For 10 months, the club went through a makeover.
“Even though they were dispersed all over the country, the staff came back to pitch in and help paint, take out trash, scrape walls, etc.,” recalled Walters. “In that 10 months, we hustled to get everything refurbished and opened in June to give all of our dedicated members a place to come back to for a feeling of family and normalcy — to get back to an established routine, especially in such a tremendously hard time of catastrophe.”
The staff and members at NOAC are what continue to drive the traditions and culture that Aleix began over 142 years ago. “The diversity and uniqueness of our venue and the people are what make that up,” said Walters.
The New Orleans Athletic Club is the third-oldest gym in the country, and it continues to prove that no hurdle will break its foundation.
By Maggie Cunningham