Thursday, March 13, 2008

New Management at Gideon Putnam Hotel

Changes under way at park hotel
New management installing exhibits, information panels at Gideon Putnam
BY LEE COLEMAN Gazette Reporter

The new management of the Gideon Putnam Resort is already making changes at the historic hotel in the Saratoga Spa State Park.
“We want to tell the story of this place where we are,” said Michael Barnes, the new manager for the 125-room luxury hotel and health spa.
Work has already started on interpretive exhibits and information panels about the hotel, who Gideon Putnam was and the Spa State Park. The material will be erected in the hotel’s portico area near the main entrance.
Gideon Putnam was a founding father of Saratoga Springs who settled near the High Rock Spring in 1789 and later built the city’s fi rst tavern and hotel.
The interpretive materials will tell the story of the hotel, the park itself and the history of the Geyser spring, among other things, he said.
Barnes works for Delaware North Parks and Resorts.
Delaware North was awarded a 20-year contract last fall by the state to operate the hotel and nearby health spa, replacing Xanterra Parks and Resorts of Colorado.
Barnes said Gideon Putnam LLC, the new company formed by Delaware North, Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, and Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, plans to invest $20 million in capital improvements in the hotel and nearby Roosevelt bathhouse in the coming years.
Barnes’ last position for the Buffalo-based Delaware North was as general manager of Niagara Falls State Park.
He said engineers and architects are currently developing a floor plan of the hotel, which was built in 1934, to detail the way the systems and layout exist today.
“We need a good foundation to get good [renovation] estimates and a good plan,” Barnes said.
Once the improvement plan is completed over the next four months, it will be shared with the state Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation for approval.
In addition to the interpretive initiative, the new management is also buying brand new bedspreads, blankets, sheets and towels.
Nearly 90 percent of the hotel employees who worked at the Gideon Putnam last year were hired by Gideon Putnam LLC. Barnes said the hotel currently employs about 150 people, but this number jumps to 225 people during the summer tourism season.
Delaware North is also spending $500,000 in marketing the hotel as the “Gideon Putnam Resort,” which includes the Roosevelt bathhouse health spa as well as the other amenities in the 2,000-acre Spa State Park.
“We want to get the word out that this is a different place,” Barnes said.
The hotel’s Web site ( has been changed to include the broader approach the new management is taking.
Barnes said the Saratoga Spa State Park has so many special attractions that it’s a natural thing to mention these when describing the Gideon Putnam hotel and Roosevelt baths.
Barnes, a 1987 graduate of St. Bonaventure University in Olean, has moved with his wife and four children to a home in Queensbury.
He was general manager of the Niagara Falls State Park for 10 years, during which a new visitor center and retail shops were opened there.
Delaware North also operates the gaming portion of Saratoga Gaming and Raceway on Crescent Avenue in Saratoga Springs as well as luxury resorts at the Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

BRUCE SQUIERS/ GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Mike Barnes, general manager of the Gideon Putnam Hotel, stands in the Arches room, pointing out some of the changes the hotel will be undergoing.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Metroland readers pick best swimming pool for 2008

Swimming Pool

1. Victoria Pool, Saratoga


3. Colonie Town Pool

This is one of those categories in which the Best Of and Readers’ Picks issues agree: Victoria Pool is the best.

It's Tax Time! Get tips, forms and advice on AOL Money & Finance

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Skating at the Victoria Pool, Winter 2008

Good news for Saratoga Spa State Park

State makes parks renovation plans
Nearly $18M will be spent on projects
BY LEE COLEMAN Gazette Reporter

From swimming pool renovations to new restrooms, the state plans to spend nearly $18 million this year in improvements to state parks in the Saratoga-Capital District.
At Saratoga Spa State Park, for example, $2.5 million has been earmarked for exterior and walkway improvements to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
At the John Boyd Thacher State Park in Albany County, $3 million has been set aside for the redesign and reconstruction of the former pool area, according to a project list released Wednesday by state parks officials.
“We are thrilled,” said Heather Mabee, chairwoman of the Saratoga-Capital District State Park, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commission.
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation asked the 10 state parks and seven state historic sites in the Saratoga-Capital District to submit requests for much-needed maintenance and renovation projects at their facilities.
Robert Kuhn, acting regional director, said the Saratoga-Capital District parks and historic sites received a substantial share of the $100 million Gov. Eliot Spitzer put in his 2008-09 state budget for the state park system.
“The moment we get the money we can start hiring contractors,” Mabee said at a park commission meeting Wednesday in the Saratoga Spa State Park’s administration building.
Mabee said many of these contractors will be local businesses.
Kurt Kress, capital facilities regional manager for the state parks office, said seven of the proposed projects have already been put out to bid.
“We are assuming the money will come,” Kress said.
Spitzer included the $100 million in his executive state budget, but the money must also be part of the final state budget expected to be approved by the state Legislature by April 1.
“You are going to notice a lot of work going on everywhere,” Kuhn said about the state parks in the region.
Some of the larger projects in the Saratoga-Capital District are:
$1.75 million for new comfort stations at the Moreau Lake State Park.
$3 million to demolish a vacant “Bleachery” building at the Peebles Island State Park near Waterford. $500,000 to build a park police station at Grafton Lakes State Park in Rensselaer County.
$1.5 million to stabilize the historic Erie Canal aqueduct on Schoharie Creek at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Schoharie County.
The governor’s $100 million commitment is “the single largest capital investment in the history of the New York State Park System,” according to Eileen Larrabee, a spokeswoman for the state parks office.
She said the spending is part of the governor’s upstate revitalization plan.
The idea is to make long overdue capital improvements to state parks across the state.
“The Spa State Park is a great draw,” Larrabee said Wednesday about tourism in the Saratoga region.
“We need to make sure it’s in great shape,” she said.
The projects on the revitalization list were selected to address “the agency’s highest priority capital needs,” according to a state parks statement. “The list includes a strong emphasis on public health and safety, as well as rehabilitation of deteriorated park and historic site facilities.”

Saturday, March 01, 2008

New Regional Director named at Saratoga Spa State Park

PLAN director gets parks post Alane Ball Chinian praised for work ‘on the front lines’
BY LEE COLEMAN Gazette Reporter

Alane Ball Chinian, currently director of Saratoga PLAN, was appointed Wednesday the new director of the Saratoga-Capital Region of the state park system.
Saratoga PLAN (Preserving Land and Nature) is a nonprofit land trust organization that has protected more than 2,400 acres of open space in Saratoga County since its creation five years ago.
Chinian, whose office will be in the Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs, will fill the regional director position with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that has been vacant since the retirement of Warren Holliday in 2006.
Robert Kuhn, assistant regional director, had been acting regional director during this period.
“For decades, Alane Ball Chinian has been working on the front lines to build sustainable communities through her work improving public access to the outdoors, preserving irreplaceable natural assets and promoting livable neighborhoods,” said state parks Commissioner Carol Ash in a statement.
The Saratoga-Capital Region of the state park system includes the Saratoga Spa State Park and 11 other state parks such as Moreau Lake, Grafton Lake, John Boyd Thatcher, and Cherry Plain as well as numerous historic sites stretching from Crown Point in Essex County to the Schuyler Mansion in Albany. “Parks reached out to me in January,” Chinian said on Wednesday. “I worked with [commissioner] Carol Ash at The Nature Conservancy.” “I’m looking forward to it,” Chinian said about her new job. She will start with the state in the $88,443 position on March 20. “I feel good about where Saratoga PLAN is,” Chinian said. Chinian is the first director of Saratoga PLAN. She was also the director of its pre- decessor, the Saratoga Springs Open Space Project.
The Open Space Project merged with the Land Trust of the Saratoga Region in 2003 to form the Saratoga PLAN.
Laura Welles, Saratoga PLAN’s conservation program manager, will be acting director while a national search is conducted to fi nd a replacement for Chinian.
Julia Stokes, chairwoman of Saratoga PLAN’s board of directors, said an executive committee meeting was held Wednesday to start the director search.
Stokes said that advertisements for the position have already been posted on various national land trust and planning Web sites.
Stokes said her organization wants to receive resumes by the end of March and start interviewing candidates by mid-April.
“We are pleased for Alane,” Stokes said.
She said Chinian has taken Saratoga PLAN from a one-employee organization to one with a staff of four people, plus Chinian.
“She has brought the organization a long way,” Stokes said about Chinian. “We wish her all the best.”
Chinian, who lives in Cambridge, Washington County, with her family, said she is excited about working with the region’s state park system.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know these places,” she said.
Ash said, in announcing Chinian’s appointment, that she joins the agency at a time when Gov. Eliot Spitzer has proposed a major initiative to address decades of “under investment” in the state park system. This initiative includes $14.8 million to upgrade facilities in the Saratoga-Capital Region, Ash said.
Chinian has a master’s degree in environmental management and policy from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy and a bachelor’s in art history and anthropology from Hamilton College.
She has served in volunteer community roles with the Cambridge Village Planning Board, Friends of West Hoosick Hills, the Rensselaer-Taconic Land Conservancy and The Arts Center of the Capital Region.