Tourist spot ages swimmingly
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Fifty years ago, with rumors swirling that several out-of-state investors planned to turn the Hot Springs Pool in Glenwood Springs into a private club, a group of 22 local businessmen took action to keep their city’s main tourist draw open for public use.It wasn’t easy for many, but each of them came up with $10,000 to cover the $220,000 down payment needed to buy the $1 million pool complex in June 1956.”My dad didn’t have all the money he needed, so he borrowed it from some local farmers that were friends of his,” said Kjell Mitchell, whose father owned the Glenwood Creamery and was one of the investors. “That’s how you did things back then – you didn’t necessarily go to the bank; you went to friends.”Today, Mitchell is the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool’s chief operating officer and general manager. While 16 of the original 22 families are still involved in the pool’s operations, the number of shareholders has grown to roughly 80, thanks to shares being sold or passed down to family members.
David Bork, founder of the Basalt-based Aspen Family Business Group, said he was impressed that the pool’s business structure had survived 50 years.”It is simply amazing that there are still 16 of the original families involved,” he said.Beth Hinds, who bought a share with her late husband, William H. Farnum Jr., the postmaster and a partner in Farnum Mortuary, recalls her uncertainty over the investment.”I was scared, because we were just taking over the mortuary and we were already in debt for that,” said Hinds, 88. “But my husband thought it would really be a good investment for our retirement. And it was.”The private company does not release financial information or pool visitation data, but it has been profitable for several years, according to Mitchell.
“For many years, the company suffered seasonally and had to borrow money every winter,” said Mitchell, who declined to say what the pool was worth today. “There were a number of lean years where the company didn’t pay dividends, but now we do.”The complex employs 175 people year-round, with an additional 100 employees hired during the busy summer season.Many upgrades have been made over the past five decades, including the installation of a water-filtration system, a miniature golf course and the construction of the adjacent 107-room Hot Springs Lodge, which opened in 1986. This winter, the bathhouse was remodeled.Pool admission prices have risen steadily over the years – from 50 cents in 1956 to $14.75 for teens and adults this summer.
The pool is Glenwood Springs’ best-known tourist attraction, said Stephanie Kiester, spokeswoman for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.”Whenever I tell people I’m from Glenwood Springs, the pool is the first thing people mention,” she said. “It’s what this community is known for, so we’re definitely aware what a draw the pool is.”Tourism is on the rise in the area year-round, according to Kiester, with hotel lodging tax revenues for the first quarter of 2006 up 19 percent over last year. Seventy percent of the pool’s traffic comes from the metro Denver area.”Tourism is very important to Glenwood, and the pool has long been the area’s biggest draw,” said Hank Bosco, 83, one of the few surviving members of the ownership group and the pool’s president and chief executive.The pool, which claims to be the world’s largest outdoor mineral hot springs pool, opened to the public in 1888. During World War II, it served as a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers.
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