GALVESTON — The city council will vote on whether to allow the Galveston Health and Racquet Club to transfer its land lease to the owners of the Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark, a move that would most likely spell the end for the 38-year-old fitness club.

Health club owner Tom Cook said Monday that the club had not been sold to  Schlitterbahn Waterparks, but he would be amenable to a sale if it could be completed before the end of the year.

“We have agreed to assign the lease to Schlitterbahn if they agree to purchase the assets,” said Cook, who has owned the health club for 38 years. Cook said if a sale occurs, he would want it to occur under the current tax law.

In a letter to the council, Schlitterbahn CEO Gary Henry said  if a sale was successful, Schlitterbahn would close the club, 2318 83rd St., and repurpose the property for “waterpark activities.” Some of the existing land would be turned into additional parking and buildings would be turned into office and storage space.

Other land would be used for new rides, which could be built before the 2013 season.

“I think that this program would be the high and best use of the club, bringing additional jobs, revenue and visitation to the city of Galveston,” Henry wrote.

Cook, 73, opened the club in 1974 as a swimming and tennis facility. He later constructed a 12,000 square foot building to be used as a children’s fitness center, but that closed in March 2012. Cook said he has been trying to lease the space since the business closed, and “for lease” signs were recently spotted near that building. But he also  said a sale to the waterpark would supersede any business there.

Cook said the club has been for sale since Hurricane Ike, which drove away many island residents who had been his regular customers.

“Since the storm, I’ve been wanting to think about an exit strategy,” said Cook, who added that the club’s membership had dwindled from about 1,300 members before the storm to below 900.

“It’s going to be a bit hard not to have it on my plate,” said Cook.

Both the health club and the water park are on city-owned land east of Scholes International Airport. Cook said there are 37 years remaining on his lease.

The 26-acre Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark opened in 2006 on property that was once owned by Farmers Marine Copper Work. The park land is fully developed, and parking has been maximized, limiting the park’s ability to grow and accept more customers, Henry wrote to the city council.

In August, Cook offered to sell the club’s pool to the city to use a public swimming pool for $525,000, but that offer was not taken up due in part to the pool’s distance from central Galveston and its relatively small size. 

The city council also considered outright buying the club in 2010, but then-City Manager Steve LeBlanc rejected the proposal because of the cost that would be required to maintain the club.

A majority vote of council would be required to transfer the lease from Cook to Schlitterbahn. Barring unforeseen problems, it should be passed easily, city officials said.

City manager Michael Kovacs said the council could not vote against the proposed transfer unless it had a reasonable objection against it.

The end of the health club would not mean the end of racquetball on the island. The McGuire Dent Recreation Center, which opened in 2009, has two courts that can be used free of charge.


(21) comments


Perhaps if they weren't so expensive more people would actually go there. When I lived on the island about a year ago I looked into joining there. It was going to be well over $100 per month for 6 months. I don't know how many people these days can afford that. I go to another gym off island where it is only about $30 per month. Big difference to the wallet.


The GHRC tried to turn their facility into a daycare/summer camp off the backs of their long term clients. I left years ago after regular rate increases, hordes of noisy kids and dwindling amenities.

Don't let the door hit you in the face on the way out.


They are way over priced, and don't upgrade the equipment. I am running on the same elliptical that I ran on in High school..... We just had our 10 year reunion. It's a shame, I love that place, I am there alot, but maybe it's time for a change. The GHRC has become too outdated, especially for the price

Carroll G. Sunseri

Mr. Ferguson should get his info correct before writing an article!!!
The GHRc has NOT had Racquet Courts for over 6-8 years! That is one reason for lose of members. Also, the place is NOT clean and most equipment is vey old.


I was just getting ready to mention that Georgie. The racquet ball courts have been closed since 2003 I believe. And yes, there was a big drop in membership then too. But for the prices they charge, I don't know what they expect.

Mary Jo Singleton

Great way for a participating member to find out! Where are we going to take our kickboxing classes??

Carroll G. Sunseri

They have never been known for communicating with their members, nor even the staff.

Lisa F

oh man, we were going to enroll in Fit Kids again this summer. Its the only place indoors where the kids can run and play all day when its 100 degrees outside.

Lauren Davila

Last year the company I work for tried to work out some type of company membership deal for all our employees... GHRC would not work with us AT ALL or budge on any pricing. Go figure...

Marine One

Hooray ! Moody Gardens is a proven leader in innovation, utilization of assets and space, as well as a great money generator for our city. It's long past due that somebody step up, and I couldn't agree to a better choice than the Moody Garden leadership bunch. When I was a kid in the 70's, the west end upper-class used that facility. I'd sneak over the fence, and reluctantly get booted 5 minutes later. No bad feelings, though - was just a kid.
That property/location is an excellent choice for them to build on and to expand services. Since I still live out that way, I don't jump the fence anymore, it's pretty much rotted away now, and I got my own pool.

Rick Lines

how is Moody Gardens involved in this transaction?[wink]


1960BOI, spoken like a selfish person who only cares about himself. Galveston is turning into nothing more than a resort community. Nothing but tourist attractions, hotels, and restaurants. It isn't tourists that keep Galveston alive, it's the locals. Tourists leave, and comeback when they see rhe locals are ok. I have lived in Galveston my entire life, except for the 4 years I went to college. As much as people love what Moody, Fertitta, and Mitchell are doing, at some point Galveston will cease to exist because it continually turns it's back on the people who LIVE here.

Marine One

nevelo, your 4 years were a waste. see my name? BOI. 1960. duuuh, and I said I'm still here..thats 2012 minus 1960 equals.....hmmmm 52.
I have underwear that have been here longer than you and this island would float away if it weren't for tourists and locals, alike. nothing in my comment degrades nor devalues nor puts our locals in the back seat.
You can expect the same sort of response as you dish out mr tennis dude.


Hahaha, you might be right. And yes, you are still here, but if you cant see the direction this city is heading, then you're blind. My post wasnt directed at you, it was mostly to the power 3 of this city. If they keep going this direction, then soon Galveston will be for tourists only. I love it here, which is why I came back as soon as I graduated, but it seems that they are devaluing the locals in favor of tourists. If you can't see that, then I can't help you.


Tourists come and go, locals are what keep this city alive and kicking

Marine One

I've known that for decades man. But this city has to grow, and to do that it has to think big. They are allowing all of the county's public housing to be built here once again, so I'd say they are more interested in stagnant death than growth right now.
We have to change that. We, the voting citizens of Galveston. Tourism is not leaving, nor are we locals. Help make room for both.

Rick Lines

I find this very interesting. I am a member there and was just charged an annual facilities fee that is passed along to all members for the purpose of improving the equipment and facilities. How can they get away with imposing this fee and then closing the club? Where does that money go? Will we get a refund? How about digging into those questions!

As far as cost, I think the cost of membership is reasonable. I don't know why someone posted it's $100 a month. It's not.

The equipment is not bad. It's really better than most other alternatives on the island or I wouldn't have joined. They even just added some brand new machines and repaved the tennis courts. Seems like such a waste to tear everything down for Shitterbahn parking.

I understand the owner wanting to get out due to declining membership and possible tax motives. It's a shame because I still think it's a good club and I don't want it to go.

Rick Lines

I just sent an email to the owner:
I just read in the Daily News about the impending sale of the clubs assets to Shitterbahn. I'm disappointed because I really like the club, but I do understand that's the way it goes with business. What does really bother me though is that we were just charged an annual facilities fee! So, you were planning on selling the club and then charged a fee for improving the club that will now be torn down and sold? At best it's a total waste of assets. Improving things that will shortly be torn down. At worst it's fraud. Collecting money from members for your own pocket never to be used on facilities or benefitted by members who contributed to such a fund. I may have to report this.[wink]

Carroll G. Sunseri

It needs to be reported!! Last year,also, an additional fee was charged, and NOTHING was done to improve the facilities!!!


I appreciate that the island is growing! Tourism creates so many good jobs on the island, such as mine, and the tourist businesses support so many non-hospitality businesses (such as stores, sign shops, construction businesses, etc.) These businesses also pay a ton of city taxes. Has anyone noticed how much improvement has been made to the roads on the West End? Ever noticed who the biggest donors are to our local charities that support so many local, Galveston families? After Ike, it was tourism that really helped launch us back. The Galveston CVB, hoteliers, and attractions spent millions of dollars and lots of time quickly getting their businesses back into action so many of us could return to work, provide for our families, and help Galveston bounce-back. In other words, tourism and local residents compliment one another. How tourism effects you depends on your attitude towards it. I love the improvements to the Seawall, all of the events that happen every week, the shops on the Strand, and I am very proud of all the things to do when my family and friends come to visit. I am love Galveston Island, and all the parts that sum up her beauty and grandeur. It is all about perspective people.


Oh, and I looked it up on their website, Schlitterbahn is not owned by Moody. It is owned by the Henry family.

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