For 153 years, the Cincinnati Athletic Club has trimmed and toned Cincinnati's businessmen, even boasting four presidents as members.

As the oldest athletic club in the United States, the all-male facility (located on Shillito Place downtown since 1903) mixes physical fitness with social events. General Manager Gerry Williams oversees operations at the historic club while ushering it into a new age of big-box gymnasiums.

How has the club survived in a world of big-chain gyms?

The club has a flair about it. Our niche is the history of the club, a desire to be part of an elite group. We are an elite club compared to the chain gyms. Even though we cost more, we are more. You cannot replace the traditions that have gone through this place, nor can you replace the traditions that have evolved here throughout the years. It's a place that, if you come, it will grow on you, and you will grow to love it.

How has the club operated this long without admitting women?

We do have social memberships for females, so they can come in and use the first floor. We have a yoga instructor who is female. We have a masseuse who is female, so we have broken some barriers down with them just within the last year or so.

In 1905, there was a proposition put before the board to allow women members, and it was declined, and I'm not sure how many times it's been voted on since then. To me, I think long-term, the club needs to evaluate itself each and every year and say, "Can we raise the capital to put in a female portion of the Athletic Club?" and integrate, if it were possible.

Downstairs on the lower pool deck, there's also a locker room there and a shower. It's all open "” one big area "” so the guys swim in the pool nude. So, if we were going to add women, we'd have to close that off, or they couldn't use the pool. One way or the other.

What are the benefits of membership?

The club includes a trainer as part of the membership fee. If you need a specialized program, our trainer will work with you on an individual basis. If basketball is something you like to do, we have a group that plays at lunchtime. We have all the athletic club facilities, plus we have social club facilities.

We also have reciprocal relationships with more than 300 clubs around the world. So if you go to Dubai, London, D.C., you can use the premier athletic clubs and some yacht clubs on our reciprocal agreements list.

What is the future of the club?

Our biggest focus now is new members and a capital fund drive. We're trying to raise a quarter-million dollars, and so far this year we've had about $76,000 donated. We have some real kinds of capital improvements we need to make here, and one of the things we'd also like to do is to get on a leasing program for equipment here so we're turning over new equipment every three to five years. That's a huge 2011 goal.

We're going to get new equipment in here, we're going to turn it over, and we're going to make ourselves viable for the next 153 years.