Historic Local Court Slated for Demise

Published: June 16, 2013

The New Orleans Athletic Club, the second oldest health club in the US, is sacrificing its basketball court (pictured above) in order to provide other equipment upgrades. The NOAC is a private institution, beholden to its owners and members, but it its historic status makes it of interest to some of the the larger populace. Merely being established in 1872 makes neither the building at 222 N. Rampart nor the firm itself historic, but the Earl K. Long Library at the University of New Orleans has a special collection based on the club, so there’s something there.

Slow, continual erosion of the things that “have always been” leads to a quiet, or not so quiet, destruction, as those in Southeast Louisiana and the surrounding areas know well. Will the removal of this court end all basketball in New Orleans? No, of course not. It is, nevertheless, a leading athletic club, a prestigious one with a clientele that has a large amount of aggregate power around New Orleans, and they are just fine with losing their historic, proper court.

Well, some of them are.

It goes to show that while the New Orleans Pelicans have a solid lease until 2024, a date that seems seems so far away, there are currents that threaten the love and importance of the game that has a long history here. Business concerns were able to keep the team from leaving New Orleans in the way the Jazz did decades ago, but it’ll take deep roots, like those in Sacramento, to keep the team in New Orleans should a strong challenge ever mount again. If enough people don’t care enough playing basketball, is that a sign of a lack of roots? Maybe, maybe not.

Below is an email summarizing the NOAC’s choices in its own words, followed by a petition started by members urging the Club to reconsider.

Bourbon Street Shots takes no position in this matter, and I am most certainly not a member of the NOAC. This is simply a report stating background and two positions on a story from the participants. The interest for the site, and perhaps to the readers, is a figurative `temperature check’ of what sort of obstacles the Pelicans may be facing in the coming years. The organization does, after all, go through efforts to partner with sponsors, including looking for Marking Contractors, to refurbish courts (and football fields!), but here is a perfectly functional court with perhaps some measure of significance beyond that of a typical court that is just simply viewed as no better than the second best option for this Club. They are also planning to improve the flooring, even thinking of using advanced flooring technologies for warehouses, which can also make the court more safe for everyone.

There is no clear solution problem, but maybe readers, the Pelicans, or some of their sponsors will be able to think of something to benefit all parties.

From the NOAC:

June 11, 2013

Dear Members,

We hope you have all had the opportunity to enjoy the new equipment that was brought in over the last few weeks! We have heard MANY favorable responses, and for that we thank you!

Our goal at the NOAC is to constantly progress, and stay ahead of the industry by offering THE BEST and most progressive equipment and programming the industry has to offer! We will come one step closer to our goal in the upcoming weeks with the addition of our NEW, HIGH ENERGY, DYNAMAX ENERGY CENTER at the NOAC. We will transform the NOAC basketball court into the most comprehensive, state of the art functional training facility the city has to offer! We will be adding 20 new pieces of THE MOST versatile, and challenging cardio equipment that is available today! We will also be adding a plate loaded strength equipment line by HOIST, a vertical max trainer, (2) K 1 Kinesis functional training stations, a 3-kick agility and speed station, a SYNERGY 360 XL mega station complete with kettle bells, ropes, TRX, rebounders, cross fit type activities, an Olympic platform with bumper plates, a full power cage with platform and band pegs, and best of all, a TURF FIELD application that will allow for thousands of functional training opportunities with sled pulls, cone drills, band drills, and any training you can imagine! And we will provide EVERYTHING you need in this very room! We will also add a stretch rack manufactured by TRUE, THE best on the market! All we need from YOU is your energy and enthusiasm about this project, and most of all to ENJOY IT as we couldn’t do it without you!

We will continue to offer basketball, by providing the basketball goals in an existing racquetball court, so everyone can still shoot hoops, or play games 2 on 2, or 3 on 3 style! Basketball is a great activity, and we DID NOT want to take it away, so we simply came up with the best alternative possible! We are also working on an alternative for volleyball as we want to keep the tradition going!

We hope you will all be excited with the new project at the NOAC, because it truly is a one of a kind project for a one of a kind facility! We are committed to taking the NOAC to the next level, and we feel this project will show that commitment and we hope you will be as proud of it as we are!

Thank you all for being members, and we look forward to seeing you all in this great new space!


Michael J. Walters



From the Petitioners (their petition):

To: New Orleans Athletic Club

cc: Mike Walters, General Manager

cc: William More, Owner

Subject: Reconsideration of the Proposed Changes to the NOAC Gymnasium

Date: 6/13/2013

Several NOAC members have taken exception to the proposed changes to the NOAC gymnasium that will permanently and fundamentally change and/or discontinue activities currently offered at the club. Members of the NOAC expect to be surveyed/consulted about such changes to the facility and activities. We believe that, as paying members to the club, we should have been able to give our input about such drastic changes to the offerings of the club. The link to our online petition can be found on the header/footer of this petition. These concerns include, but are not limited to, the following issues brought forth by stakeholders:

Members who primarily use the club as a place to play basketball. This group includes 20-50 members who regularly use full court basketball as their primary cardiovascular workout.

Members who use the club primarily as a place to play volleyball. Volleyball is a very distinct and unique feature at NOAC that will be difficult to find at any other facility in the metro area. This group includes an estimated 20-30 members.

Members who regularly play racquetball. Racquetball will be impacted by the proposed plan to place the basketball goals in the Racquetball courts.

Members who believe the proposed funds could/should be used in a different manner, such as a renovation of the upstairs weight room as well as a much needed total renovation of the locker room/shower/steamroom facilities, which are well below standard for a high end athletic club.

Members who are concerned that the proposed “cross fit” area will be used for traditional cross fit classes, which will result in additional fees for participation in the group training sessions.

Members who believe that the NOAC gymnasium is a historical structure that deserves to be saved. The gymnasium has been in use for well over a century, has been used to film several motion pictures, and has even seen the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers use it’s court to practice.

Members who believe there are other spaces on the property that can be renovated and used for the proposed renovations while keeping the gymnasium in use.

Members who, if the proposed changes take place, will expect concessions to be made to their contracts/membership agreements. These contracts were signed with the expectation the following activities would be offered: Full court basketball, volleyball, and racquetball. Elimination of these activities should allow for the option of voiding membership agreements without penalty.

In summary, we believe that the NOAC facilities — including the men’s locker room & shower/sauna area in particular — are in deplorable condition. Furthermore, the changes you propose will destroy an historic basketball area.

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that if the rundown areas of the club are not renovated and the basketball courts are destroyed, we will seriously consider terminating our memberships and will refuse to pay any penalty since our membership contracts will have been breached by the NOAC and its owner.

I hope you realize that the membership truly appreciates the clubs efforts to improve the facilities. However, I believe a large contingency of the membership have legitimate concerns about the issues listed above. Hopefully the leadership at NOAC will take this into consideration for the proposed renovation and all future changes that are considered.

We look forward to hearing your response,

NOAC Membership


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