|By Blake Jones, The Post-Star, Glens
Falls, N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 30, 2010 --BOLTON -- Spring has sprung at The Sagamore resort, which opens to guests today with a rosy outlook for the season ahead.
After two tough years that included a recession, layoffs, a return to seasonal operation and major construction, there are signs of recovery.
Room bookings are pacing ahead of last year, and management is hoping roughly $4 million in improvements to the property -- including structural upgrades and new amenities -- will give guests a reason to visit.
The resort has or will receive a new roof, paint, dock, paving, and heating and cooling units by summer. In addition, The Sagamore is beefing up its attractions by replacing the tennis courts with a family activity center and rebuilding its outdoor restaurant.
"It's an aggressive program this year," said General Manager Tom Guay. "There is so much going on here it's ridiculous."
Looking forward, Guay is optimistic that this summer will be busier than last for non-group bookings. The pace of reservations for May is ahead of last year, and already more than 800 additional room nights are reserved for July and August than at this point last year.
"We've been extremely busy around here, almost to return to 2008 bookings," Guay said.
Group sales are expected to remain flat in 2010, but are pacing well ahead of last year for 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The resort opened to group business on April 1; all 137 rooms in the main building were full thanks to three groups on site.
Guay said the numbers tell him the economy is improving and families are ready to travel again.
A February report from tourism research firm Smith Travel indicated luxury hotels like The Sagamore would see recovery sooner than the mid- and low-range properties in 2010.
Guay said the major renovations completed last year and a visit from NBC's "Today" show in late July have helped create a buzz about The Sagamore.
The resort has ramped up promotional efforts in New York City, and is working to appeal to families.
Among the upgrades in store for this summer, the former tennis courts are being converted into a family activity center called The Rec, which will include an 18-hole miniature golf course, Wii game center stations, arcade video games, a pool table, ping pong and an indoor Wiffle ball diamond. The Rec will be open in July and August, and many of the activities will be available to guests at no charge.
The resort is also undergoing significant structural improvements.
The main building's roof was replaced, its exterior is being painted, two stairwells inside were rebuilt, heating and air-conditioning units were replaced in all the rooms, and a new door from the third-floor hallway leads to a rooftop deck with a view of the lake.
Work started two months ago to put up new siding, decking and walkways at the Lodge suites next to the main building. The road and parking lot leading to those accommodations is being repaved.
Guay said half of the Lodge units will be ready in June, and the rest will be finished in the fall.
Outside, the main dock was torn out and rebuilt to allow ships from the Lake George Steamboat Co. to pick up and drop off groups on site. Previously, the resort would shuttle between 350 and 500 people to Lake George for excursions.
By the pool, the old octagonal Cabana restaurant was torn down and rebuilt. The new restaurant, called The Boathouse, will feature a two-tiered deck looking over the lake.
"It's going to be, in my mind, the best view of Lake George," Guay said.
The front lawn is getting a landscaping upgrade that will include new grass, perennials and a walkway.
Since buying the resort in the fall of 2008, parent company Ocean Properties Ltd. has invested more than $20 million in renovations. Last year, the dining room, a kitchen and some executive offices were removed to create 37 new guest rooms. A $2.5 million outdoor pool and deck was added, and the lobby was renovated.
The majority of the ongoing construction should be done by Memorial Day, when the summer season kicks off.
Staffing is at about 250; that number will rise to more than 600 by mid-June, on par with last year.
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