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GoG Collection officially opens health and wellness center

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Colorado Springs-based GE Johnson Construction Co. completed the building in less than a year.

On June 10 — the 66th anniversary of the Garden of the Gods Club’s opening in 1951 — the resort’s newest owners hosted a grand opening for a 30,000-square-foot facility that is just one piece of the recently rebranded Garden of the Gods Collection.

Construction of the new International Health & Wellness Center was completed by general contractor GE Johnson Construction Co. in December, and the facility is now fully operational.

“The building went up remarkably fast — within a year,” said General Manager Laura Neumann. “GE Johnson knew how fast we wanted to get it up and running, so we were able to open in December.”

It is being marketed by the company as a “new model in health care delivery for leisure travelers, executives and groups, with a focus on integrated and proactive care,” and offers a variety of non-invasive procedures.

The 10,000-square-foot medical center (located on the main floor of the three-story facility) employs a full-time staff that includes board-certified physicians — a cardiologist, a kinesiologist, an endocrinologist, a physical trainer and nutritionist — as well as a naturopath and “energetic practitioner.” Together, the team works to assess each patient and create a tailored health plan that could include IV therapy, a special diet and exercise routine, or chiropractic services.

“This treatment would be for everyone from runners training for a race to corporate executives who are stressed and overworked,” Dr. Michael Barber, director of Medical & Cardiovascular Services, said of the IV therapy.

“This helps get their levels back to where they should be.”

A 10,000-square-foot spa on the top floor features nine treatment rooms and includes state-of-the-art therapy equipment such as an Austrian weightless environment bed, a salt inhalation room, an herbal sauna and high-end technologies for rejuvenation.

“We already have clients on a waiting list for some spa services,” Neumann said. “The doctors are having kind of a slow start in the wellness center, almost by design — they want the chance to perfect the programs before they’re fully vetted.”

The building also features an 11,000-square-foot event center and has increased the resort’s employment by 30 full-time positions and around 100 seasonal, part-time jobs (bringing the Collection’s total employment to around 370).

“Most of those [30 jobs] are professional, six-figure jobs that require a lot of education,” Neumann said of the jobs at the new facility. “Those numbers will grow when we finish our residential community, because those people living there will also want to use our services … and we’ll treat that like an extension of the resort.”

The residential project is being developed on formerly vacant property south of the resort — as well as on property made vacant by the destruction of a former wing of the hotel — and will include 17 privately owned villas, six three-bedroom cottages and 14 privately owned casitas. Neumann said she expects that work to be completed by the close of 2018.

The company is also working on a new 2,500-square-foot fitness center in an existing building that Communications Director Monica Smiley said should be completed next month.

Neumann and Smiley said the biggest challenge they’ve faced since opening the new facility in December is to stem the tide on public perception that the Garden of the Gods Collection is exclusive and off-limits to the public.

“Many of our services are open to the public — that’s the biggest misnomer in our marketplace,” Neumann said. “For most of its life, the Garden of the Gods Club was exclusive and private, but in the last decade and a half, we’re open to the public for anyone to stay … and certainly our International Health & Wellness Center is open to the public, as well as our spa.”

 Partnerships

Those at the Garden of the Gods Collection are also leveraging community and business partnerships to help ensure success.

In January, the company struck a deal with Centura Health to put the new Health and Wellness Center on the health care provider’s preferred medical provider network.

“Partnering with Garden of the Gods Collection as a preferred network provider supports our commitment to our mission and offers world-class health care and wellness programs to our patients and employees,” Penrose-St.Francis President and CEO Margaret Sabin said at the time. “Our clinically integrated network, Colorado Health Neighborhood, strengthens our connections with the communities we serve. Financially, these partnerships make sense as the health care sector shifts to outcome-based reimbursements.”

That partnership will allow the Garden of the Gods Collection to offer a “Wellness Insurance Plan” to Centura employees, as well as its own, and is also designed to give those same employees better benefits packages with better access to care. According to Penrose-St. Francis officials, the collaboration is part of a larger move by Centura to create sustainable and affordable health care for the community.

But that isn’t the company’s only successful partnership in the business community, she said.

“There are so many markers that we’re seeing that indicate that being a place of health and wellness is just the destiny of our community,” Neumann said. “We have UCCS to back us, we have a partnership with [Centura Health] and I just think the timing is right for this community.”

Collection Marketing Director Monica Smiley (left) and General Manager Laura Neumann.

Collection Marketing Director Monica Smiley (left) and General Manager Laura Neumann.

Looking Back

Since their purchase of the 260-acre property and businesses in 2013, co-owners Judy Mackey and Brenda Smith have taken the resort through rebranding and a sizable series of redevelopment projects.

The momentum that led to these projects began when it was announced in October 2013 that Mackey and Smith had formed a partnership to purchase the property from Sunrise Co. and Thomas Schmidt LLC, which had co-owned it since 2007.

It was the first time the Garden of the Gods Club had been locally owned since Hill Development Corp. — the company founded by Al Hill that built the resort in 1951 — sold it to Sunrise and Schmidt for $24.75 million in 2007, according to records from the El Paso County Assessor’s Office. Records from the same source do not indicate what Smith and Mackey paid for the property.

This was the two co-owners’ first foray into resort ownership after full careers in Colorado Springs: Smith was formerly a partner at accounting firm BKD LLP and chief operating officer of First Presbyterian Church, while Mackey had been president and CEO of Benefit Services Group Inc.

Neumann said that Smith and Mackey developed the concept of creating a health and wellness center after having negative experiences with modern medicine.

“Brenda Smith, one of our owners, went through some medical issues in her family and was not fully satisfied with Western medicine approaches; and Judy Mackey also went through her own personal journey with those things,” Neumann said. “So the three of them [Barber, Smith and Mackey] went on a trip together … and came back with the idea to do collaborative medicine here in Colorado Springs.”

Neumann said the co-owners didn’t perform studies or do market research to determine the viability of their business model. Instead, she said they used their intuition.

“Judy [Mackey] has been in the health benefits business for most of her life, so she really saw what corporate employers are looking for to lessen their insurance costs and to have their workforce show up healthy,” Neumann said.

“If you get them on the front end and you put them through some programs, you have a better talent pool than your competitors.”

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