In 1982, when Dick Butera took ownership of the Aspen Club, it was the largest private multi-sports facility in the nation - nearly 60,000 square feet.
“I mean it didn't make sense whatsoever,” said Butera.
The history of the Aspen Club is full of larger than life personalities, financial swings and drugs.
“When I got to Aspen it was cool to be stoned, and then it became cool to be fit - many of the drug dealers would come to the gym to work out,” Butera said.
Including Steven Grabow who was blown up in his car in the parking lot after playing tennis at the Aspen Club in what authorities suspect was murder.
Butera’s initial focus for the club was as a tennis center. A shortlist of regulars includes Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chrissy Evert, John Mcenroe and Björn Borg. Jane Fonda, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jordan and Tom Brokaw have also sweat it out at the Club.
“I think we associate fancy with exclusive and I think the club is gonna be opposite of that it’s gonna be very inclusive,” said current owner Michael Fox during a tour of the facility this week. “We have about 1500 members today which about a quarter of the adults in Aspen are members, and we expect that to go up. We actually view this place as an amenity for the community.”
When it reopens, scheduled for some time in early 2017, the check-in area for the club will be much further back in the building. No membership will be required to access a rebuilt cafe and expanded retail center. There will also be a saline-heated outdoor pool open year round with equal parts lap time and open swim time.
Just as the club was recognized nationwide for its sports therapy component in Butera’s day, Fox hopes the renovated facility will lead the fitness industry as an integrated health center. He likens it to an extension of the mind, body, spirit philosophy behind the Aspen Idea itself.
“We are a piece of that equation. We aren’t the whole equation – Aspen’s the whole equation. When you add up everything… THAT’s the equation,” said Fox.
A new performance space will allow for “3D” movement classes that encourage more natural plyometric exercises. Through the cafe and nutritionists’ programs, dietary health will be part of the offerings, and a dedicated meditation room is meant foster mental health and focus.
“One in three kids is now obese, two in three adults are now obese, and the diseases around lifestyle are exploding. Cancer, heart disease, strokes. We can't afford it. It’s gonna kill us both fiscally and physically and we are becoming a leader in sort of integrating that.”
Club members have been offered passes to other area exercise facilities, but the renovation closure means the elimination of 180 jobs.
Longtime staff members say finding work in a saturated fitness market on the cusp of off-season has been difficult and many are unsure what they will do next.
“To close it goes against everything I believe in so it's been a tough decision and it’s not been fun it's not been easy,” said Fox.
When the club reopens employees will have to reapply for their positions. Some members of the physical therapy department will remain employed through the remodel, as well as top administrative staff. Those 20 positions are moving to new offices at 430 W. Main Street.