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Ask an Expert on Renovations


You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Mike Walters, manager of New Orleans Athletic Club (NOAC), about marrying history with state-of-the-art fitness.

NOAC was founded in 1872. What are the challenges of designing and renovating a gym in a setting with so much history?  

MW: Some of the challenges include retrofitting a building with the current modern technological advances, while maintaining the historic look, and preserving the integrity.

How have you overcome these challenges?  

MW: We have done so by thinking outside of the box. We have 36-inch thick walls in some spaces, so outfitting new cardio pieces with internet and cable wasn’t easy. So we would strategically design conduit to make it look like it was part of the building. We also had to ensure we had multiple Wi-Fi routers, as the signal is hard to maintain in such a fortress of a club. So we would put hubs on the desired floor, hidden away, yet made to “fit in” with the current architecture.  

What are some stand-out design or architecture features New Orleans Athletic Club boasts?  

MW: The façade of the building is limestone, built in 1929, with New Orleans Athletic Club inscribed at the top of the exterior wall. The club even has a bronze inlay address in the sidewalk concrete, denoting the numerical address, as well as New Orleans Athletic Club fully spelled out. The ballroom has 14-foot arching windows with full length french doors that expand on the faux balconies to the street below. It truly is an architectural gem.

On our first floor, you can’t help but notice the majestic architectural columns that span 20-plus feet in height. We also have arched entry ways made of marble and concrete, magnificent chandeliers (original) and very detailed dentil molding around the entire interior of the first-floor ceiling. The wainscoting around the bar area is stunning, and its color is deep and rich.

Do you think it’s important for a gym to have appealing design, and why?   

MW: An appealing design and layout is crucial because you want members to feel comfortable in their surroundings, and you want to create an environment where time slips away, so it truly can be a retreat away from the stresses of the day. This makes for happy members and most importantly, healthy members.

You’ve been through major renovations. What advice would you give to other gym owners who may be considering a big renovation?   

MW: My advice would be to be patient, have a clear vision and defined goals, and do not settle for less than your original ideas. It’s crucial in making sure your facility is top notch.


Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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