Take a Roman Bath at the Avalon This Winter

HOWLAND, Ohio – Guests at the Avalon Inn & Resort and members of its affiliated country clubs should be able to relax this winter in a Roman bath, an outdoor water feature that will be available year round.

The $5 million, 20-foot-by-40-foot outdoor heated pool, which will be next to a terraced area at the rear of the main inn building, is the latest – but not the last – element to be added at the Howland Township hospitality property.

Also planned for the inn are a 140-foot resort pool for use during the summer months, a new restaurant and a patio bar.

The additions represent a portion of the $25 million the resort’s owner, Avalon Holdings Corp., has invested in the property since purchasing it four years ago.

The changes are aimed at establishing the Mahoning Valley as a destination for people to visit, says Ron Klingle, CEO of Avalon Holdings.

“We started with something that had a horrible reputation,” Klingle begins. “The hotel had been neglected for probably the last 30 or 40 years. When we purchased it, it was very obvious that it needed to be completely redone.”

About 30 or so years ago, Klingle continues, he visited a ski lodge in Aspen, Colorado, with an outdoor pool that operated through the winter. “It was fantastic, it was exhilarating,” he remarks.

The Roman bath, which will be heated to 90 degrees, will offer “more of a spa experience” for hotel guests and club members, he says.

The company’s properties include Avalon Golf and Country Club in Howland, Squaw Creek-Avalon Golf and Country Club in Vienna, Avalon Golf and Country Club in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, and most recently The Avalon Athletic Club, formerly the Boardman Tennis Center, which was acquired in March.

The Avalon Inn has 132 guest rooms, including 32 suites, Klingle notes.

Installation of the water feature began early this summer. Representatives of the company installing the Roman bath, High-Tech Pools in Cleveland, say they are unaware of any other “commercial application in the Northeast or Midwest” that has such a feature, according to Klingle.

“This will create a year-round swimming experience for our members and for our hotel guests,” he says. While the water, heated to 90 degrees, is too hot to exercise in without getting overheated, it is “perfect for just relaxing or a therapeutic experience.”

Since Klingle first discussed plans for the Roman bath feature with The Business Journal in 2015, the initial concept changed, he says. In earlier plans, the pool was smaller and there was no outdoor bar.

That feature, in fact, was only added in recent weeks, and was inspired by a lunch he had with a friend at the Squaw Creek club’s outdoor bar.

“I’m thinking if we don’t do this at the hotel, we’re going to regret it forever,” he says.

Klingle engaged Strollo Architects, Youngstown, to turn his concept into architectural drawings for construction. The firm is doing the design for the extension of the resort, including the decks around the pools, which are being installed by a separate company, and the bar areas.

“You don’t see a lot of outdoor Roman baths,” says Gregg Strollo, partner in the firm. “I’m very impressed by Ron’s commitment to really creating something special there. It’s a visible manifestation of his commitment to making an extraordinary resort destination in northeastern Ohio.”

The architectural design will include a new restaurant and expanded lobby on the hotel’s main floor.

A new under-roof space for wedding ceremonies is being added that overlooks the Roman bath, which will be accessible from the fitness center on the lower level. And the top level of the terraced space will feature 12 fire pit dining tables fed by a gas line.

“We’re planning to have all of this done and finished by next spring,” Klingle says. “We hope to have the Roman bath and the stadium and the access from the lower level by the end of this fall, when the cold weather comes so we’ll be able to use it this winter.”

The Avalon Inn’s existing amenities include a newly added spa room, indoor Olympic pool, fitness center, tennis courts, bocce courts and multi-use courts.

Several guest rooms are getting widened doorways to accommodate hydraulic massage tables, so guests can receive massages in their rooms, Klingle says.

“We have created something that absolutely will bring people in from outside of our community, to vacation here as well as for business trips and to hold conferences,” he says.

Beth Kowtis Carmichael, executive director of the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau, agrees.

“From travel industry trends, we continue to see these sort of destination hotels succeed,” she says. “With all the other amenities and tourism attractions in Trumbull County, it’s a great addition.”

Occupancy at the hotel, which charges between $149 and $500 per night for rooms, ranges from 50% to capacity, Klingle reports. Business has improved “significantly” during the past two years as most of the renovations were completed.

“There are individuals who are here every week – people who will stay here a couple nights every week,” he says.

Weddings represent about 15% of the Avalon Inn’s business, and each wedding exposes roughly a couple hundred people to the hotel, he says. Conferences account for another 15% to 20%.

Avalon recently launched a corporate membership program that 100 local businesses already have joined, Klingle says.

Businesses can participate by indicating, without making any commitment, that “more often than not they’ll send their out-of-town guests to this hotel to stay,” receiving discounted rates and other rewards, he says.

“That probably represents 10% to 15% of our business, too,” he continues. One local company sends as many as 100 clients to the hotel on a single day, he reports.

Meanwhile, the conversion of the former Boardman Tennis Center into the new Avalon Athletic Club should be complete in about two months. “At least the inside of it should be finished,” Klingle says.

Further expansion could be on the horizon, he promises “If it ever gets close, I’m going to buy another golf course or two, and that’s always a possibility.”

Pictured: Ron Klingle stands in front of the construction site for a Roman bath at the Avalon Inn. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.