Jacques ‘n Jills buyers planning amusement center

March 02, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The new owners of the Imperial Valley's largest athletic club have big plans for the facility and the surrounding area, including plans for a water park, a bowling alley and a skate park.

San Diego-area businessman Fred Kim said he bought Jacques 'n Jills Health Club in El Centro because he has long wanted to run a family athletic-type business, in addition to the amount of available adjacent property for development. Kim leads a groups of investors calling themselves El Centro Sports Complex LLC.

"This is a community that doesn't have much in the way of family amusement," Kim said Thursday.

Kim said his plans include changes to the health club including a cyber café, meaning a café with computers with high-speed Internet connections, and new athletic activities.

"We are just at the beginning," Kim said, adding that numerous permits must be obtained before any of his other plans can become reality.


The sale of Jacques ‘n Jills was effective Thursday. The club was sold by local businessman Phil Heald and his wife, Elise, who'd owned it through several iterations dating back to 1970 when the old Palms Theater at 456 Main St. in El Centro was converted into Desert Jacques Athletic Club.

Heald said he'd been looking for the right buyer for some time, someone who would continue to invest in and improve the club.

"I've been running it for just about half my life," the 62-year-old Heald said. "I developed it from a seedling 30 years ago."

According to the club's latest newsletter, the club had humble beginnings and could not initially allow women as members due to the entrance being via the men's locker room. The club has been on Wake Avenue since 1991.

"It's time to turn it over and let somebody else put some fresh ideas and money into it," Heald said.

Heald also is president of Imperial Stores, and invests in and develops real estate.

Another investor in El Centro Sports Complex LLC is Calexico real estate company owner Linda Barrientos, who said she's thankful for facilities like the athletic club.

"I think it's the membership that sold (Kim)," she said.

Kim said a major announcement regarding his plans for the area around the health club should be made next week.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 33-3440.

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