Health Haven

Sports and Health Club brought fitness—and charm—to St. Louis Park.

When the Sports and Health Club opened November 23, 1959, it was the first time anyone had ever seen a family-oriented exercise facility. Located at the northwest corner of Excelsior Boulevard and Quentin Avenue, the $250,000, precast-concrete building was the brainchild of Arthur W. Owens. The facility featured a 20-foot-by-45-foot pool, separate workout rooms for men and women, a nursery, and a game and social room suitable for card games, dances, shuffleboard or even golf.

In 1960 you could take a self-improvement course from the owner of the Mary Lowe Charm School. A special Teener’s Charm Course taught hairstyling, makeup, wardrobe training, figure control, carriage, posture, personality analysis and development, and social graces.  Similar courses were available for career girls and housewives.

Owens opened other such clubs in the Midway (1961), Apache Plaza (1961), LaSalle Court (1970), Normandale (1973), and Northland Park (1977).

In 1983 it was announced that a new Sports and Health Club was being constructed on the other side of Quentin at 4900 Excelsior Boulevard, the former site of the Engell Dairy. That property became Bally’s Total Fitness, and is now being redeveloped.
In 1984 the original Sports and Health Club building was leased to Park Nicollet for offices, and the pool was replaced by a conference room. There were traces of the former health club—tiled staircases on either side led down to what had been the male and female changing rooms.

Now the building has been given a makeover, with a brilliant copper façade. It is fitting that a building originally dedicated to the health and wellness of the community is now owned by the clinic that had its roots right here in the neighborhood and continues to keep us healthy. Now if Park Nicollet only offered charm courses for career girls!

Jeanne Andersen is secretary of the board of the St. Louis Park Historical Society. Learn more about the city’s history at the website here.