Ashley Petersen has been getting the same question from customers at Calamity Jayne's in Idaho City for quite some time:
When is The Springs going to open?
Boise County residents are looking forward to reclaiming the popular recreation spot, which they hope will draw more visitors to area businesses. The Warm Springs Resort drew as many as 1,000 people a day before it closed 12 years ago because of septic system problems.
"Hopefully, it will be a big boost to the economy," said Petersen, a college student and waitress recently hired to manage the snack bar at The Springs.
About 170 people made reservations to soak in the new pool and hot tub on Valentine's Day, said Wyatt Sharpley, who is overseeing the resort and the rebuilding.
As part of Thursday's opening-day festivities, there will be poolside live music all day. The snack bar won't yet be open, so a soul food truck will be parked outside.
On Wednesday, steam floated off the surface of the pristine 80-by-40-foot pool - naturally heated at about 99 degrees - as workers rushed to furnish the pool building before opening day.
"Are you going to make it?" a FedEx delivery man asked Sharpley as he added another package to a pile of boxes in the lobby.
One worker installed a gas fireplace in the lobby, another worked on the sound system. General contractor Bob Wyllie was busy hanging fire extinguishers.
Two large chandeliers made in Boise had not yet arrived. Sharpley said Springs owner Jesse C. Pearson was bringing them to the site later in the afternoon.
After so many delays, Sharpley said, waiting to open The Springs until everything was completed wasn't an option.
"People really want us open," he said.
PLENTY TO DO
The 80-acre site 1.5 miles southwest of Idaho City off Idaho 21 is very much a work-in-progress. The first visitors will not be able to use the steam room next to the pool; it is not yet finished.
But visitors will find plenty to enjoy, including a pool with a flow-through system that refreshes the water every six to eight hours.
The new pool house is rustic, featuring natural materials and earth tones. The front desk is wrapped in a piece of rusted steel.
The towel shelves and benches in the locker rooms were designed by Wyllie and made by a local craftsman. The entire building is heated by the hot springs water.
SETBACKS DELAY PROJECT
Pearson, a real estate investor who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Hawaii, came up with a plan to renovate and re-open the site several years ago. But he encountered major roadblocks.
No one would finance the project, even after he downsized a $7 million plan to a no-frills $1 million project.
He offered the land to Boise County residents so they could turn it into a public pool and develop it as they wished. In a close vote, county residents decided against acquiring the land.
Pearson turned to family members to help cover the cost of the initial phase of the project - which turned out to be about $1 million just for piping the water and other underground work. When that wasn't enough, he sold a property in San Francisco, Sharpley said.
Another setback came just a few days ago. Sharpley said the license that health officials issued limited pool uses. Swimming classes, for instance, will not be allowed.
That will be a big change from the former Warm Springs Resort. Many Southwest Idaho residents learned to swim there.
"All three of my boys took lessons from Trudy," said Idaho City resident Cara Woras, referring to local restaurateur Trudy Jackson, who taught lessons at the old pool.
Woras worked at the hot springs when she was a young adult, and she's glad to be working there again. She was cleaning and polishing Wednesday to get it ready for opening day.
"There's so much cross-country skiing out here," Woras said. "You can come here and have a soak on your way back to Boise."
MORE TO COME
In the spring, accommodations for overnight stays will be built, including cabins, yurts and a treehouse. Airstream trailers are a possibility.
Another four hot tubs will be added, as will a music stage near the main pool.
So far, 14 people have been hired, including a bookkeeper, front-desk agents, cafe manager and attendants. After the ground thaws in the spring, more will be hired to do planting and landscaping.
"It's not perfect like we'd like it to be, but it will be," Sharpley said. "I think people are going to be blown away. It's so beautiful."
Sharpley, who lives in Hawaii, just bought a house in Idaho City - which he said feels as if its residents are one large family. Pearson is looking for a house in Boise.
"I love it," Sharpley said of the quiet of the mountain town. "I sleep better than I've ever slept."
Katy Moeller: 377-6413