It's not like the place was shabby.
The Coeur d'Alene Resort already was regarded as one of the finest of its kind worldwide. So why would co-owners Duane Hagadone and Jerry Jaeger sink millions of dollars into a place when the economy is anything but booming and customers were basically happy anyway?
"We were always 4-star in dining, 4-star in our rooms," said General Manager Bill Reagan. "The lobby was an area that fell behind."
Jaeger expanded that thought.
"A lot of our competitors have bought into the 'deferred maintenance' mentality," he said. "We've decided to take the opposite route."
Jaeger and Hagadone headed that direction in part because top-flight construction costs are now about 25 percent below average market rates, Jaeger said. But there's more to it than that.
"We want to secure the future for our 1,850 associates in Hagadone Hospitality," Jaeger said during a preview tour earlier this week. "There's no deferred maintenance here."
And apparently, no deferred expense.
From the moment a visitor enters the downtown anchor that opened in 1986, everything is new. Three kinds of Italian tile greet every footstep. Countertops throughout sport granite from Brazil. And of course, the fish tank is worth noting.
It's actually a 32-foot long, 2,200-gallon aquarium with 22 impressive residents. Of those tank-dwelling Koi, 18 were imported from Niigata, Japan; the other four domestic Koi moved here from Florida.
As dramatic an upgrade as the lobby offers, the ground floor has also taken off in three other areas.
Jaeger describes the family restaurant with a view of Lake Coeur d'Alene as "still very casual, three meals a day," but one of the differences is that you don't have to save the best for last. Gooey's famous desserts are now the first thing diners see as they approach the reception area, with a seven-seat counter off to the right. More disciplined customers will defer the sweets until a little later and focus instead on the open kitchen before them.
"There's not one piece of equipment in here that isn't brand new, state of the art," Jaeger said.
The same can be said for the dining area, which still offers good views of the lake - and Hagadone Corporation's home offices - but features entirely new booths, tables and chairs. Jaeger said the menu includes "old favorites" but has added some new stuff as well. The ambiance of the restaurant is distinctly different. Italian tile throughout looks like it's from some fancy dock, and framed photos of the famous custom-built "Jefe" wooden boat adorn the walls, making Dockside feel more like its name.
Starting with a large waterfall feature emblazoned with "Whispers" behind, you can't miss the completely redesigned cocktail lounge.
That wasn't always the case.
"We've had people who stayed two, three nights with us, and when they checked out they asked where Whispers bar was," Jaeger said. "I don't think they'll miss Whispers now."
This Whispers is three times bigger than its predecessor, with doors opening to an outdoor deck that includes 6-foot high glass panels to block cool winds off the lake. Outside there are also five blazing caldrons that light up the evenings.
It would be tough to improve on the Resort Spa itself, which MSNBC recently named the most romantic spa in the world.
But the workout area? Well, it had a ways to go - and now Jaeger believes it's there. The fitness center is three times larger than it was before the remodel, featuring some of the finest equipment - Star Trac - in the industry. Free weights complement the cardio and other workout equipment, and The Resort pool and hot tubs are just a few feet away.
"The facility's very balanced," said Berni Campbell, a Resort employee for 23 years and director of the fitness center and spa. "Anybody can go in there and find the right kind of equipment for their workout."
Residents can purchase Coeur d'Alene Club memberships offering access to these amenities and other discounts. For information on memberships, call 765-4000 Ext. 21 or go to cdaresort.com.
Jaeger gave most of the credit for design and execution of the upgrades to Hagadone and to designer Guy Drier, who worked with Hagadone on both of the businessman's world-class homes.
"Guy and Duane studied together and a lot of ideas came right out of the head of Duane Hagadone," Jaeger said.
But with such heavy investment, will The Resort price out most mere mortals?
No, Jaeger said. He said customers can expect similar prices for meals and hotel services that they've grown accustomed to over the years.
"We realize that even though a lot of money has been spent, we have to remain competitive," he said.
Mike Patrick/Staff writer, Coeur d'Alene Press