Club 1 Fitness celebrates 50 years of health in Great Bend

Club 1 Fitness on Broadway Ave. in Great Bend, recently held a ribbon cutting for 50 years of business in the community.

By MIKE COURSON
Great Bend Post

Spa Health Club, Town & Country Racquet Club or Club 1 Fitness. Before personal fitness was a trend, Martin Casey had a vision that it should be. In 1974, she purchased the girls high school located next to the Dominican Sisters of Peace on Broadway in Great Bend. Fifty years later, his daughter, Caron Zager, still owns the business.

“This is our community,” he said. “I wouldn’t want a franchise to come in and ever take it over. I like the family feel, the community. My dad, that’s how he felt about Great Bend, which was the most wonderful place. We consider everyone our family. here. You’re not just a member or a number. We like to think of you as family and take good care of you.”

Much has changed since those early days in 1974. After purchasing the facility, Casey immediately covered the old wooden floor with red carpet and filled the building with shiny chrome fixtures. Then called the Spa Health Club, he added columns and statues to enhance the pool area.

“In the pool area, there was a Greek god that was next to the whirlpool and there were some that were next to the columns,” Zager said. “There was a statue under each one. It was supposed to be serene and that kind of atmosphere.”

During the first four years, the Spa only had one changing room. This meant that men and women could access the facility on different days. The aerobics classes were held outdoors. Personal fitness had not yet entered the American lexicon 50 years ago.

“We struggled in the ’70s,” Zager said. “There was an old lounge area with machines and games and you could smoke there. They’d be there smoking, then they’d go out and get on a treadmill. We’d drink beer. Fitness wasn’t big until the 1980s, then it started appear”.

Throughout, Casey corresponded with a fitness enthusiast named “Mr. Atlas,” asking questions that were answered through letters the family found years later. Casey had immigrated to the United States from Ireland with his brother at the age of 21. In 1977, the duo had ideas for an expansion.

“His brother who came from Ireland with him lived back east and tennis and racquetball were really big,” Zager said, “so in 1977, Dad added the racquetball and tennis courts and went That’s when it changed its name to Town & Country Racquet Club.

Unique skylights in the tennis area provided natural lighting and reduced energy costs. The bodybuilding area at the back of the facility was first a viewing area for the tennis courts. This changed to a weight room as bodybuilding gained traction in the 1980s. The dumbbell that now stands near the tennis courts and the old back massagers are the last remnants of the original 1974 facility.

Changes came naturally. The aerobics room was built around 1995 with wooden floors first installed under the tennis courts. Casey also handed over the reigns to his son, Kevin.

Now, changes come more frequently. Gone are the old chrome machines, replaced by sleek machines that maximize what they are designed to do.

“Now there’s a machine for every body part,” said Chris Berger, CEO of Club 1 Fitness. “So it was like one of those jungle gyms you put in your basement. That’s where everything has grown as far as equipment. We’re lucky to have enough room for that kind of thing.”

Nutrition has also changed. Expensive and hard-to-digest proteins have been replaced by food and drink for everyone to enjoy.

“We have the whole reloading area out front, so it’s always been booming,” Berger said. “Now we’ve added energy teas, which are a big thing. A lot of people come in and get it because they want the caffeine. Pre-workouts, post-workouts and supplements have always been a big part of that.”

The facility underwent a major renovation in 2008 and another in 2012. The staff recently changed the color scheme and rebranded the 2022.

The business survived the COVID-19 pandemic, a time that closed gyms across the country and ushered in a new wave of home workouts. Part of that survival is adapting to an ever-changing fitness landscape.

“It changes about every six months, so there’s always something new coming out,” Berger said. “There’s a new machine, or new this or that. There’s always someone who wants a new machine because they saw something in a magazine.”

The facility used to offer separate memberships for different building features. Now, everything is included in one price. Fitness options include weights, cycling, yoga, zoomba, step aerobics, TRX classes, aquacise classes, TKO boxing and a weight loss competition called Battle of the Bulge. The tennis courts double as pickleball courts.

The business is even expanding outside of fitness. Club 1 Fitness is gearing up to host its third annual car show to benefit Kans for Kids. The show has grown rapidly and Berger is looking for another venue for all the cars.

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