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Delaware North Investing $20 million in Renovation of
Gideon Putnam Hotel, Saratoga Springs, New York

By Eric Anderson, Albany Times Union, N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Feb. 23, 2010--SARATOGA SPRINGS -- It was financed under a previous federal stimulus program. Now, the Gideon Putnam hotel is getting a facelift with private money, up to $20 million of it, as a private management group seeks to enhance its appeal and update it.

Delaware North, the Buffalo-based company managing the property, already has remodeled the lobby, restaurant and tavern areas, as well as adding wireless Internet access throughout.

It has freshened guest rooms with new "soft goods," such items as bedspreads and linens, and is embarking on a plan to remodel all the bathrooms.

"To date, we've spent $4 million," said Tim Smith, general manager of the Gideon Putnam Resort, as it's now known.

A space off the lobby was turned into a gift shop, and an exercise center was also installed on the main floor of the hotel. Power outlets are plentiful, giving business travelers a place to recharge their laptops and smartphones.

But some things haven't changed. A wood fire crackles in a fireplace next to a sitting area in the lobby.

Delaware North, which manages properties ranging from the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif., to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, was brought in two years ago to revitalize the property, according to a spokesman for the property's owner, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

"The goal was to bring an infusion of private-sector dollars into the hotel, along with new vision and new energy," said Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the state agency.

He said over the 20-year contract, Delaware North will spend $19.7 million on capital improvements.

The Gideon Putnam, named for an early Saratoga Springs entrepreneur, shares the Saratoga Spa State Park with golf courses, the National Museum of Dance, the Saratoga Automobile Museum, the Hall of Springs banquet facilities, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and other attractions.

In the summer, the park draws guests in town for the New York City Ballet, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and thoroughbred racing at the Saratoga Race Course.

The rest of the year, it hosts conferences, leisure travelers and special events such as weddings.

Last Friday, the hotel was fully occupied by a wedding party, with the ceremony and reception at the nearby Hall of Springs, operated by Schenectady restaurateur Angelo Mazzone.

Kathlyn Denkenberger, interim president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, said the Hall of Springs and Gideon Putnam, both members of the bureau, work closely together.

While the Gideon Putnam has had its share of famous guests, it wants the public to know that it is nevertheless "an affordable luxury," in the words of Tom Wysocki, its director of sales and marketing. Packages in the off-season, he said, can start as low as $100 a night.

About 60 percent of the business consists of business travelers attending conferences and meetings, while 40 percent are guests on leisure trips.

The hotel was financed in part with a loan from the Reconstruction Finance Commission, which dated from the Hoover administration and was used by the administration of Franklin Roosevelt to distribute federal relief funds, according to the application nominating the hotel for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Gideon Putnam and other buildings in the park were constructed between 1931 and 1935.

The hotel has joined such properties as the Algonquin, the Mohonk Mountain House, The Sagamore and The Otesaga Resort Hotel & Cooper Inn on the Historic Register.

The renovations will take place in four five-year segments, said Smith, the general manager.

The hotel's facelift comes as construction proceeds on the $4.2 billion GlobalFoundries semiconductor plant a few miles south in Malta.

Already, the hotel has hosted industry events, and the two hotel managers say the expansion of the region's technology sector will provide the historic Gideon Putnam with "great opportunities."

Eric Anderson can be reached at 454-5323 or by e-mail at eanderson@timesunion.com.

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Copyright (c) 2010, Albany Times Union, N.Y.

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