David Rooke swims laps at the Old Town Hot Springs pool in Steamboat Springs. The downtown fitness facility is in the early planning stages of a capital campaign for a major expansion. One of the things the facility is hoping to improve is its lap pool.

Photo by John F. Russell

David Rooke swims laps at the Old Town Hot Springs pool in Steamboat Springs. The downtown fitness facility is in the early planning stages of a capital campaign for a major expansion. One of the things the facility is hoping to improve is its lap pool.

Steamboat's Old Town Hot Springs eyes $6M in improvements

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Old Town Hot Springs is in the early planning stages of a capital campaign for a major expansion.

— The board of directors at Old Town Hot Springs would like to make $6 million in improvements to the recreational facility that has been around as long as there has been a town called Steamboat Springs.

But before it makes a decision to go forward, there is work to do. The board is preparing to remind the community of its nonprofit status and independence from the city of Steamboat Springs before deciding to launch a $3 million capital campaign to modernize the geothermal heated lap pool and kiddie pool. And that’s in addition to plans to build a 10,000-square-foot addition at a cost of an additional $3 million.

A consultant hired to look at the feasibility of the capital campaign concluded that too many people in the community, many of them Old Town Hot Springs members, are unaware of its nonprofit status, hot springs Executive Director Pat Carney said.

“We did a pretty comprehensive study and got 500 surveys back and people had a lot of confusion,” Carney said. “Some of our members think we’re funded by the city.”

Board President Rich Lowe said the consultant was impressed with the response rate on the questionnaire but counseled the board to proceed at a measured pace. No decision has been made to undertake the capital campaign.

Lowe said one community benefit of the capital campaign would be upgrading the architectural appearance of the health and fitness complex that sits at the east entrance to downtown.

“Old Town Hot Springs is as prominent on its end of town as the library is on the other,” Lowe said. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have two bookends welcoming people to town?”

If the campaign went forward and met with success, the lap pool would be rebuilt, making it deeper to allow for swimmers to dive off starting blocks in swim meets. And Carney hopes to see the diving area made deeper so that the diving boards can be brought back.

The kiddie pool was built in 1998, and the toy features are showing wear. It would be rejuvenated, and a new water therapy pool, separate from the largest hot pool, would be built for exercise classes.

But refurbishing the pools is only half of the larger vision, Carney said. The board also is studying a two-story addition west into the parking lot closest to Lincoln Avenue. That would permit creating more cardio exercise space and a much-needed second room for exercise classes, she said.

The expansion would eliminate six to seven parking spaces, and board members would consider eliminating one or both of the tennis courts on the north side of Fish Creek Falls Road to build more parking, Carney said.

The tennis courts are seeing less and less use, she added.

The 10,000-square-foot expansion would permit the existing massage rooms to be moved, expanded and given more of a spa-like treatment. And there are plans to create a meeting room for staff training.

The expansion also would allow for a new climbing wall, something that is unavailable in a public facility in Steamboat, Carney said.

“We think that can be a revenue generator,” she said.

In order to leverage borrowing to accomplish the expansion, Old Town Hot Springs is pursing a portion of the $650,000 to $800,000 in annual revenue from the city’s 1 percent lodging tax, which frees up in 2014 after the original construction debt on Haymaker Golf Course is retired.

The lodging tax is dedicated to projects that benefit tourism, and Carney said the board is optimistic that the resort community recognizes the role Old Town Hot Springs plays in enriching the experience of visitors to the community.

The hot springs receives more than 70,000 visitors through the front door annually, not including the 4,000 people who are members and pay annual dues. Of the 70,000, an estimated 50,000 are from out of town, Carney said.

In all, Old Town Hot Springs is contemplating $6 million in improvements divided roughly evenly between the pool projects that would be the subject of the capital campaign and another $3 million for the expansion. The hot springs generates revenue, Carney said, but it also has a $5 million mortgage on improvements made in 2009 to the hot springs themselves and deck areas surrounding the pool. It can't leverage more debt to tackle further expansions without new revenue.

Whether the hot springs goes forward with all of its plans is a decision that won’t be made for some time.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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