Friday, March 28, 2014

Lodge spa project to start next week

Resort to build 20,000-square-foot addition, new pool

Sun Valley Resort cook Michael Saenzi, a 20-year company employee, works in the Lodge Dining Room kitchen Wednesday, as he and other staff prepare for the final weekend of service in the historic venue. Photo by Roland Lane

     Sun Valley Resort will commence a 15-month project to add to and remodel the entire Sun Valley Lodge on Tuesday, April 1.

     The work that begins next week will affect the northerly wing of the lodge, which will be incorporated—with a new addition—into a world-class spa facility. Pursuant to the plans, the beauty salon in the lodge closes today, March 28, and will reopen on Thursday, April 3, in Sun Valley Village.

     Sun Valley Co. spokesman Jack Sibbach said the final design drawings for the project are still being finalized, but preliminary work on the spa will commence as planned.

     “They’re still going through the drawings, but the most important thing is on April 1, they’ll start digging by the lodge dock,” Sibbach said.

     Work on the spa project will continue through the summer but the lodge will stay open for guests. In September, the resort plans to close the entire lodge to allow for a remodel and interior restructuring of the iconic hotel facility that opened in 1936.

     Sibbach said the company will have to adjust its seasonal hiring but no full-time employees are expected to be out of work as a result of the project.

     “Most employees will not be affected directly,” Sibbach said. “… We’re going to do our best to keep all full-time employees working as much as they can at the Inn and other restaurants. We have to do a good job of managing employees.”

     The total number of guest rooms at the lodge will decrease from 148 to approximately 100. All rooms will be upgraded and refurbished. Sibbach said some rooms will be combined into one, while several will have bathrooms twice the size of the old ones with plumbing upgrades.

     In addition, the company will upgrade several public areas of the lodge, including the main lobby, restaurant facilities and the small bowling alley and game room popular with younger guests.

     The spa project calls for a three-story, 20,000-square-foot addition that will connect to the northerly wing of the lodge, adjacent to the outdoor swimming pool. The number of treatment rooms will triple from five to 15, with the addition of large locker rooms with steam and sauna facilities, relaxation lounges, a yoga studio and a large fitness facility.

     The addition will include “lots of wood and glass” and will boast “amazing views of Baldy,” resort co-owner Stephen Holding said in a press conference earlier this month. He said the Holding family and the project planners have been cautious to retain the character of the historic building.

     “The lodge will still really have the feeling of the lodge,” Holding said.

     Sibbach said the resort will try to keep the bowling alley and pool open as long as possible before construction of the addition begins. He said the pool will likely close in mid-April, while the bowling alley is likely to close in mid-May.

     “The existing pool built in 1936 is going to be torn out with a modern one of the same size replacing it,” Sibbach said. “Many people probably won’t notice it but it’s going to be upgraded due to plumbing and leaking issues. It will be a lot more energy-efficient and will look a lot better. The deck will be expanded, so it’s going to be a lot more social with more places to put chairs.”

     Since the project was announced on March 3, there has been a positive response, Sibbach said.

     “Everybody has been very, very excited,” Sibbach said. “The comments we’ve gotten personally and online have been very positive, so it’s been gratifying.”

     Sun Valley has retained the Boston design firm of Frank Nicholson Inc. and Ketchum-based architects Ruscitto, Latham, Blanton to oversee the project. Their prior projects for the resort include: River Run Lodge (1994), the Sun Valley Inn and Ballroom expansion (2003), Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge (2004) and the Sun Valley Pavilion (2008).

     “This is the biggest renovation the lodge has ever gone through,” Sibbach said. “It’s an exciting project for everyone. … We hope to give tours before we reopen on June 15, 2015, but it depends on how construction goes.”

Resort, public to say goodbye to
historic Lodge Dining Room

Saturday night will be an evening of emotional goodbyes to a staple of the Sun Valley Resort and lodge, as the Lodge Dining Room will host its final dinner. The dining room, known as the LDR, was once the most popular dining establishment in Sun Valley, but has become less popular over the years as more casual dining options have emerged at the resort and in the city of Ketchum.

After purchasing the resort in 1977, businessman Robert Earl Holding had the LDR remodeled into a high-end dining facility.

“One of the first things the Holding family did after purchasing the resort is remodeling the dining room,” resort spokesman Jack Sibbach said. “In the early years, they wanted to bring that glamor back to dining in the area. That style of dining has changed over the years. They used to require coats and ties but that lifestyle has gone away many years ago.”

As the hours of operation for the dining room have decreased over the years, so has the viability of keeping it from a business point of view.

“It’s part of our history, heritage and culture, but we can’t look back,” Sibbach said. “We have to move forward, and do what’s best for our resort, and more importantly our guests.”

Sibbach said he expects the final dinner on Saturday and final brunch on Sunday to be an emotional time for the many people who made unforgettable memories in the LDR.

“It’s great to hear people’s emotions and passions about the dining room,” Sibbach said. “Tears will be shed this weekend, but I think this is definitely the right thing to do.”

Former head of restaurants Claude Guigon and a number of other former waiters will serve food on Saturday evening. For the Sunday brunch that will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sibbach said he expects about 400 people enjoying the last meal in the dining room.

Resort archivist Shannon Besoyan said she has many fond memories of the dining room, but is excited for the lodge’s future following the renovations.

“As the Lodge Dining Room takes its final bow, that spirit of gaiety and joy will once again prevail as Sun Valley says goodbye to a treasured part of its history and looks forward to welcoming its future,” Besoyan said.

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