Historic Local Court Slated for Demise

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Published: June 16, 2013
pic-basketball[1]

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 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.

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!

Sincerely,

Michael J. Walters

GM

NOAC

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

12 comments
josephplum
josephplum

I think two things are a shame here.

I think BSShots SHOULD be biased and Should be in favor of preserving the court. I'm a fan of the site and trying to be constructive; I just think BSShots should be advocates of hoops in N.O. I'm not saying to get involved in the NOAC, but in an article like this, why not just say that ya'll hope they keep the court? Be biased towards basketball as opposed to not basketball.

The other thing I think is a shame is the NOAC getting rid of the court. I'm familiar with the building, although I've never played there, and I've generally aspired to be wealthy enough to join- specifically to play basketball. During these finals I've met some dudes at my bar who play there, and they somehow are able to get non-members in to play- I've been trying to do that. There is a dearth of courts in this city- the court near my apt had the goal destroyed (probably teenagers). It's really sad to hear that any court, even a private one, and especially a historic one is going to be destroyed. And I agree with other commentors here, as well as the petitioners that the reasons to get rid of the basketball court and not really replace it, are weak and poor. 

Ddiamondd
Ddiamondd

Other than this article, I have no knowledge of this gym. From an outsider's perspective, though, it seems that many members will be hurt by this decision and few will benefit. The removal of basketball is exacerbated with a paragraph filled with exclamation points hyping up 2 on 2. Another fun sport in racquetball gets pushed aside, and it sounds like volleyball could be gone completely. It disappoints me to see basketball pushed aside; it reinforces my feeling that basketball, in general, is under-appreciated in the New Orleans area.

daThRONe
daThRONe

I hooped there once. Was really expensive for a membership. Unfortunate this is taken place.

xulapaul
xulapaul

I'm a current member of NOAC and am livid over the decision to get rid of the basketball court.  As far as I know, members were never consulted about this decision (I sure wasn't), and seems to rub against the core value of the Club, something that is defined more by character and quirkiness than high-end equipment.  My membership just turned over for another year (my third), and I doubt I'll be renewing again.

New City
New City

Played on that court many times and it's a great venue. Short-sighted to destroy it chasing the flavor-of-the-month fitness craze. As the members argue, put the money in better locker rooms.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes moderator

Good comment, JPlum.

My only responses are ad follows:

The site has no mandated group opinion, even if we all agree. I do not speak for anyone.

The NOAC will decide what is best for it, and its pocketbook will tell them if they made the right business decision. They are a solid business, and I will not fault them for that.

Their members can do that if they feel it necessary, as presented here. The NOAC reasoning is also presented.

What is disappointing, as stated, is that this seem the right decision.

Thoughts?

xulapaul
xulapaul

@Roger.That.  

Thanks for making such a relevant and, indeed, insightful commentary on this story.   

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes moderator

@RonJohn63 Your cherry-picking of quotes an uncharitable interpretations add nothing, Ron. What the "private institution, beholden to its owners and members" does with its court influences my opinion of all parties not a lick. "Its historic status makes it of interest to some of the the larger populace," me being one, and the fact that an historic court can be easily cast aside says something meaningful in the form of a "figurative `temperature check’ of what sort of obstacles the Pelicans may be facing in the coming years."

How that temperature reads most certainly concerns me, but that this the cause; this court removal is merely an effect. At no point did the rest of the site get involved.

Feel free to suggest words you think are less biased, but presenting a balanced case on the issue with a note about why Pelicans fans should take note is not bias.

That cherry-picking, on the other hand, has a ring of trying to make something bad out where there is no such thing.

josephplum
josephplum

 
Thanks for the response. I'm not sure if the right business decision is always the right decision for the greater community. I'm also not sure that the short term business decision is the best thing for the long term business. If NOAC was making the case that the viability of their business was in jeopardy because they don't have enough space for equipment, and that destroying the basketball court was the only option to save it, they might have said that. But the members who have commented on this matter seem to think that isn't the case. Also, the NOAC statement to its members smacks of salsemanship with brands like DYNAMAX! HOIST! and SYNERGY 360 XL! It's just anecdotal, but we've all seen fad exercise programs and gym equipment come and go, while generation after generation enjoys basketball. Maybe NOAC did a study that concluded that they'll increase membership with these brands, and not lose too much without basketball, but I don't know that that's the case. Maybe they'll have more interest in the long run with a basketball court; again, I actually don't know.

Personally, though, I don't care about the profitability of an expensive club. Sure I'd like to be able to afford to use it, but if it were up to me, I'd convert it to a community center so the general public could use it. Maybe organize it as some sort of a non-profit with a development wing to make it economically viable, and hope the Pelicans and other community minded athletic oriented organizations would get involved. Like I said before, there are so few basketball courts in this city, I wish NOAC would have a longer and broader view of the potential that a centrally located, historic, space could hold. Maybe NORD takes the space over in 25 years, after the current membership and ownership is gone. Then the better decision would be to have kept the basketball court for the betterment of the hoops loving community, as opposed to having to make the argument to build a new one, and then finance it.

Thanks for publicizing this story, and thanks for providing a venue for me to speak my peace.   

xulapaul
xulapaul

@Jason Calmes @RonJohn63  

Sometimes I wonder where you BSS guys get your patience.  For your sakes, I hope you chase it down with something strong.  A shot, perhaps.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes moderator

J Plum, anytime.

Your points on the effects on the community is why I published this. It's about courts generally, not any particular one, to me.

Maybe the members can change the course plotted. Maybe not. The goal is to raise DEMAND so SUPPLY follows, not so that QUANTITY DEMANDED merely increases relative to QUANTITY SUPPLIED.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes moderator

@RonJohn63 @Jason Calmes Ron, these are statements about what you think about me, not about what I think of the court, the actions, etc.

No matter what I say / write, you can choose to pick on it. I'm not going down that rabbit hole. You just go ahead and think I'm biased, perhaps naturally, perhaps harmlessly, perhaps not. I have zero problem with that. 

As I said, I am biased . . . but not about what the NOAC does. That is an effect. I have an issue with the cause: lack of interest in this sport. That is something I wish was otherwise. And I have emotions about it. There is nothing wrong with that. 

Here is where I said that and where you skipped over it:

"How that temperature reads most certainly concerns me, but that [is] the cause; this court removal is merely an effect."

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