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 (www.gideonputnam.com) 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.