Post Star - June 9, 2008
Roosevelt Bathhouse in Saratoga Springs gets two new tubs
Among storied resort's upgrades are heated, pure, mineral water baths - for the first time in 20 years
By DREW KERR
Published: Saturday, June 07, 2008
SARATOGA SPRINGS - It is once again possible to take a warm -- and completely mineral-rich -- dip at the Roosevelt Bathhouse.
Two baths at the Saratoga Spa State Park facility received new equipment last week that allows them to offer heated baths comprised entirely of mineral water -- something that hasn't been available there for two decades.
When a boiler at the spa broke 20 years ago, management began heating the effervescent fluid from the ground by adding warm tap water.
The practice continued unabated until last May when New York Post reporter Fred Dicker accused the park of failing to disclose what it was doing.
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo all weighed in, chastising the so-called deception after the story broke.
In September, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the new management company for the bathhouse, Delaware North Cos., announced they'd install heating equipment in four baths that would allow them to instantly warm the cold mineral water emanating from the park's springs.
The next two heating units will go in before the Fourth of July. The state paid about $130,000 for the heating system, which was custom-designed by maintenance superintendent Philip Henzel.
Because mineral water deteriorates the pipes -- a factor in the boiler break years ago -- the new system keeps the water in constant motion, Henzel said. The pipes will also be cleared each day.
Whether the system, which takes the water from 52 to 100 degrees, will be installed on the remaining 38 tubs will depend on the public's reaction, parks officials said.
The spa still offers the mixed bath or colder, pure mineral water baths.
The sessions cost $20.
Robert Kuhn, the assistant regional director for the state parks office's Saratoga-Capital Region, said he feels management never did anything deceptive at the bathhouse.
But it is also important that people believe they are being treated fairly, he said.
"We felt the need to make sure the public felt we were doing the right thing and that we were operating in an open, honest way," Kuhn said. "I think we've now done that."
Michelle Calzada, the facility's spa director, said few people have asked about the new arrangements, though.
Dicker, however, bathed in the new tub over the weekend, she said. Though the writer was reportedly impressed with the difference, Calzada said, based on her sampling of the bath, the difference is almost undetectable.
"I'd like to know what the difference is because I didn't really notice it," she said.
The heaters are among several renovations in the works or planned for the Gideon Putnam Resort and the Roosevelt Bathhouse, both of which are managed by Delaware North for the first time this year.
The Buffalo-based company, which took over from Xanterra Parks & Resorts on Jan. 1, is planning $450,000 in additional work at the bathhouse this year and will spend $19 million at the 72-year-old Gideon Putnam Hotel over the next two decades.
General Manager Michael Barnes said this week that the company is moving slowly -- re-mapping the facilities to get a grasp of their inner workings before planning any large-scale capital projects.
In the meantime, new interpretive panels that spotlight the history of the park, its mineral waters and Saratoga Springs are being added. They will be installed in the lobby of the 120-room hotel when finished.
"We feel it's our responsibility, from a stewardship standpoint, to tell the story of where we're at," said Barnes, whose company also manages properties at Yosemite National Park, the Kennedy Space Center and the Grand Canyon.
Both the bathhouse and the hotel are also getting an interior décor makeover, with new color schemes, fresh wool-woven carpet and more substantial furniture.
At the bathhouse, there are also plans to re-do the entrance, creating a warmer, more inviting feel, Barnes said.
Park Manager Mike Greenslade said Delaware North's plans complement other work going on at the park at the moment.
The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is preparing for a $2.5 million façade renovation, and there are $3.6 million in infrastructure improvements being put into place this year.
"This couldn't come at a better time," he said. "It's long overdue, and the park is already seeing the benefits."
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