Friday, October 3, 2014

Rebuild, not remodel, at Sun Valley Lodge

Major project at resort moving full steam ahead

Express Staff Writer

Crews were hard at work Wednesday on the spa addition to the Sun Valley Lodge and the new heated swimming pool outside. The pool will eventually feature an expanded deck and poolside dining service.
Express photo by Roland Lane

     Jack Sibbach, public relations and marketing director for Sun Valley Co., calls the extensive work being done on the Sun Valley Lodge a rebuild, not a remodel.

     “It’s going down to its outside exterior walls and the pillars that hold it up,” he said. “Basically, everything is being redone.”

     Sun Valley Resort is owned by the Holding family. Matriarch Carol Holding and her son Stephen announced last spring that the company was planning a nine-month closure of the iconic 1936 Sun Valley Lodge to modernize and to improve the hotel’s offerings. Plans include a 20,000-square-foot spa and suite addition to the northerly wing of the building and a complete interior remodel and room reduction to the historic Lodge.


Construction is under way

     The Lodge closed Sept. 1, with its last guest out by noon, Sibbach said. The demolition teams came Sept. 4 and quickly gutted the interior of the building.

     “It looked like a bomb went off inside,” Sibbach said during a quarterly Sun Valley Marketing Alliance meeting Tuesday in Ketchum.

     All that remained was the outer shell of the building, the 13-inch concrete wall and supporting pillars.

     Following the interior demolition, crews began to install electric wiring, plumbing and metal frames. Efficiency is crucial since the project needs to be done by June. Sun Valley Co. wants the hotel open for the busy summer season.

     “It’s a very coordinated effort,” Sibbach said. “It’s going to have to be to get it done in time.” 

     The plan calls for a cut in the number of rooms to create larger spaces for guests. The most recent specifications state the room count will drop from 148 to 94. However, when the Lodge is unveiled next year, Sibbach said, they might not see a decrease in guests, as the bigger rooms will allow for families to consolidate into one space.

      “The rooms have couch beds and we’ll have more family-friendly rooms,” he said.

     Bathrooms will be three to four times larger, depending on the size of the room.

     There are already mockup rooms in place, though they are likely to be changed several times, Sibbach said.

     In an effort to expedite the pace, the Sun Valley City Council on Sept. 3 granted a waiver for the project from the city noise ordinance. Interior work is now permitted 24 hours a day Monday through Saturday, exterior construction from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and work on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sun Valley Co. was required to provide a company contact person for city police should there be noise complaints filed.

     The project is under the direction of Dallas Black, an employee of Grand America Hotels and Resorts, owned by the Holding family. Black hired several crews, including Salt Lake City-based Magleby Construction and local businesses Dusty’s Electric and Evans Plumbing.

     Sun Valley Co. employees have also found work within the construction and demolition projects, Sibbach said.


Will tourism be affected?

     While Sibbach said at the Tuesday marketing meeting that there could be a 10 percent decrease in occupancy levels at the resort this winter, the company is confident that its other lodgings will be enough to house the normal number of guests. The resort reaches full capacity, 485 rooms before the Lodge closure, on only about 50 nights a year, he said. The company hasn’t seen any Lodge-related cancellations yet, but is prepared to direct tourists to other local hotels should the resort’s Sun Valley Inn, apartments, condominiums and cottages become full.

     “If we get snow, the ski mountain will have just as many people,” Sibbach said. “The [local-option-tax numbers] will be just as high as they were before.”

     To help with national and international marketing, Sun Valley Co. enlisted the help of hotel public relations specialist Wagstaff Worldwide. Sibbach said Wagstaff is getting the message out about the reconstruction and will rebrand the Lodge, particularly to upscale spa and hotel media outlets, prior to its unveiling. Sun Valley Co. will be offering a more upscale hotel experience come June, Sibbach said, and hopes that the new amenities draw a wider customer demographic. 

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