Circle resort reopens after long closure

Posted: Thursday, August 05, 2004

FAIRBANKS (AP) The Arctic Circle Hot Springs reopened after being closed for nearly two years because of a dip in tourism and a slowed economy.

Neighbors are pitching in, helping to make the beds and mow the lawn around the resort, which was built in the 1930s.

''Everybody out there wants to see it go,'' said Bonnie Rogers, who with her husband, Larry, is helping to oversee the establishment for owner Bobby Miller.

Miller, 85, ran the business with his wife, LaVerna, but found it increasingly difficult to keep it open year-round because it lost money in the winter. He closed it in October 2002.

The resort has been busy lately. It quietly reopened on July 4 after a 20-month hiatus. By mid-July, the resort eight road miles southeast of the Steese Highway mining community of Central, was jumping with an influx of 300 fire personnel dealing with forest fires in the Interior.

The firefighters have dwindled to a crew of 70, but 16-hour days are far from over for the resort's new managers.

''It's been pretty stressful the last month,'' said Larry Rogers.

Arctic Circle Hot Springs is known for its large outdoor pool fed by natural hot springs. Guests are put up in the main lodge, which includes rooms, as well as cabins and mobile housing. Tent space also is available.

The lodge features a classic bar, sitting room and restaurant area, which hasn't been opened yet because of a lack of staff. Coffee, tea and pastries are offered to guests each morning and pizza and snacks are available in the saloon, said Larry, who shares bartending duties with the only other full-time employee.

''This is a day-by-day operation,'' Larry said. ''We hope to keep it open all year long ... We want to open the restaurant in the next couple of months.''

Before opening last month, the Rogers spent some time cleaning and repairing the resort.

''The saloon ceiling was on the floor,'' said Larry. ''I replaced probably a quarter of mile of water pipes. Only two cabins are not ready yet.''

The Rogers have taken on several other adventures since Larry retired as a railroad engineer in the Midwest. They've managed a furniture store, boat marina and commercially fished out of Key West, Fla.

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