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HOT SPRINGS STATE PARK—The tang of sulfur drifted from mineral springs along the Bighorn River to the Star Plunge aquatic center. A handful of swimmers bobbed under the sun in the blue-green water of the outdoor pool. Inside, an aging slide adorned with blue waves snaked down to a second pool. Beams of sunshine pierced through the ceiling windows, casting rectangles of light on the water’s surface and the constellation of flags hanging over it.

A fortune-telling arcade game barked appeals from the nearby lobby, where visitors checked in at the front counter before heading to locker rooms. Owner Roland Luehne sat at a table, a tan chihuahua named Lilly at his feet, sifting through boxes of paperwork accumulated during his family’s nearly 50-year concessionaire arrangement with Wyoming State Parks.

Luehne has worked here since 1975, the year his parents bought the facility. His first job was as slide attendant for the Screaming Mimi — a terrifying-looking contraption that entailed riding a small wooden sled down to a pool. That’s since been replaced, one of many upgrades Luehne said his family made to the Star Plunge over the last half-century.

The state’s April announcement that it selected a new concessionaire for the park’s hotel and aquatic facilities, including the Star Plunge, represents a severing of the Luehne family’s long-standing relationship with Wyoming State Parks and a new chapter for a Wyoming institution that’s entwined with their identity. As Luehne went through the boxes, recalling decades of running the pool, he described what has happened with the state as a “nightmare.”

State Parks defends its process as transparent, above board and in the best interests of the community and state. As the gem of the state park system, it’s time to update the aging infrastructure to meet modern demands, the state says.

But news of a new operator — which promises major upgrades in a park where facilities haven’t changed much in decades — has sparked outrage from Luehne and loyal Star Plunge patrons who fret the new management, Wyoming Hot Springs LLC, will bring higher costs and sensibilities that are out-of-touch with its clientele.

In sleepy Thermopolis, which relies heavily on the park as an economic engine, reactions run hot, cold and in between. Some see the change as a way to boost the community’s profile and diversify its economy. Others believe it will Disney-fy the beloved park.

Across a state and region where generations of families have grown up visiting the pools, the issue has also touched off debates pitting nostalgia and local-business values against modernity and the ideas outsiders bring in.

Luehne maintains State Parks has been operating in ways to effectively dislodge him from the helm. The state alleges he has been the party unwilling to cooperate.

Star Plunge owner Roland Luehne sifts through documents and plans regarding the aquatic facility he and his family have operated in Hot Springs State Park for decades. (Katie Klingsporn/Pedrodiniz)

“It's our job to look out for the best interests of the state,” Outdoor Recreation Office and Division of State Parks Deputy Director Nick Neylon said. “We are genuinely trying to make [the park] better for the people of Wyoming, for the people of Hot Springs County and Thermopolis.”

Between the costs involved in drafting and submitting applications in response to the state’s last two requests for concessionaire proposals, Luehne said, “we're in over $100,000. And that's 100,000 reasons why I want to be here. That's all we've been trying to do for 50 years is to be here. It's our life.”

Luehne got up and walked toward historic signs hung near the front door, his dog trailing him. A couple interrupted to ask where they could sign the petition opposing state action. He pointed them to a sheet of paper.

Whether their signatures will have any bearing on the outcome in Hot Springs State Park, however, is an open question.

Reaching its potential

On a May day when snow flurries lashed other parts of Wyoming, the sun shone benevolently on Hot Springs State Park, where trees were leafing out. Though midweek, the park was busy. People walked their dogs near the river or strolled the boardwalks over the mineral terraces. Two Green River school buses disgorged students to swarm the playground, and fishermen bobbed down the river in a drift boat.

To the southwest, where the 1,100-acre park opens into undeveloped sagelands and six miles of hiking trails snake along ridges, the park’s bison herd huddled in a sage flat, shielding a brand-new calf.

Hot Springs is a far cry from the wilderness experience more recognizable at state parks like Curt Gowdy or Sinks Canyon. The park’s eponymous springs were long ago developed into indoor and outdoor pools with steam rooms and slides, while parking lots and paved roads encircle the grounds. Two hotels occupy its boundaries, and it hosts an assortment of built infrastructure, including a hospital, county library, fairgrounds and schools.

These factors make it a constant draw for locals and visitors; Hot Springs tallies more than 1.5 million annual visits, more than double any other in Wyoming’s system. And in a state with no permanent amusement parks, Hot Springs’ two aquatic facilities — Star Plunge and Tepee — have long drawn families with kids.

As landlord, Wyoming holds lease agreements with park operators. That includes the Star Plunge, Tepee and two hotels. Wyoming also operates a state bathhouse, which is free and open to the public — a stipulation required by Native American tribes that ceded the land.

Visitors walk the boardwalk at Hot Springs State Park, as seen from across the Bighorn River in May 2024. (Katie Klingsporn/Pedrodiniz)

As dense and eye-glazing as they may be, those agreements, along with a 2016 park master plan, are pivotal to the changes coming toward the park. Of the four concessionaires, Star Plunge and Hot Springs Hotel currently operate under short-term management agreements rather than long-term leases. State Parks no longer wants to do that, and a 2019 law mandates that it secure the long-term arrangements.

In 2020, Wyoming put out a request for proposals for parties interested in operating new or improved lodging and aquatic facilities in the park. The idea was to secure long-term leases that support the Hot Springs State Park Master Plan, which envisions a more polished destination with modern recreation offerings.

“Today, some concessionaire operated facilities are deteriorated with extensive need for improvement and redevelopment,” it reads. “This plan encourages reinvestment in public and private facilities, replacing outdated features to prioritize life, health and safety; and offers opportunities for collaborative partnerships to meet the Division’s key mission of public benefit, resource protection, and high‐quality visitor experiences.”

Luehne was the sole applicant in that initial round, but he and the state failed to reach an agreement. He was one of three applicants in round two, which opened in November. This time, the state opted for another applicant, Wyoming Hot Springs LLC.

That company’s bid proposes transforming Tepee into a spa and wellness center while enhancing facilities and the mid-century character of the Star Plunge with new slides, pools and a poolside diner. It proposes rebuilding or renovating the Hot Springs Hotel with more rooms and upgraded dining areas. There are mentions of trails, a drive-in theater, glamping facilities and a brew pub.

Upgrades will soon begin to the Tepee, according to State Parks. The Star Plunge and Hot Springs Hotel, meanwhile, will continue to operate under existing management through the conclusion of their current contracts, at which time Wyoming Hot Springs LLC will take over.

Star Plunge’s management agreement expires first, at the end of 2024.

Wyoming Hot Springs LLC operates hot springs resorts in three locations across Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming — including, as of November, Tepee Pools. Management did not respond to Pedrodiniz requests for interviews.

Cures what ails you

With stately cottonwood trees, river access and mineral waters, the park is an undeniably special place. People have recognized that for centuries, and though many today speak of the difficulty of change, Hot Springs State Park has gone through a dizzying array of iterations.

Native Americans prized the main source of heated water, the Big Spring — which was known as Bah Guewana, or “smoking waters” — and visited long before white settlers discovered it. The original 1-square-mile park land was established through a treaty between the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes and the U.S. government. The feds purchased the land in 1896, and ceded the “Big Horn Reserve” to the state in 1897 on the stipulation that there always be free public access to the waters. It operated as a reserve for more than three decades before becoming Hot Springs State Park.

Native Americans used Hot Springs State Park land for thousands of years. The Shoshone called it “Bah Guewana” (Smoking Waters). (Hot Springs State Park)

During the early years, there was a bit of a bonanza as white settlers built infrastructure and attempted various money-making enterprises at the springs. People chipped “tubs” into the mineral deposits for soaking; bottled the mineral water for a healing drink; opened swimming facilities and built apartment buildings, hotels and sanitariums. One Meeteetse entrepreneur attempted to generate electricity from the springs with a 4,000-pound waterwheel, but the mineral build up quickly shut that down.

A community sprouted nearby that would eventually become Thermopolis, Greek for “Hot City.” In the state park, meanwhile, there was at various times a Carnegie Library, zoo, dance pavilion and drive-in theater.

Where Guernsey State Park has 250 campsites, Hot Springs has zero. Inside its borders, a hospital ministers to patients, a fairgrounds hosts events and county workers staff offices. A residential neighborhood butts up to the park’s north boundary.

But an emphasis on the wild side is growing. There are new trails for hiking and biking, and the 2016 master plan calls for more. The plan uses the word “natural” 221 times. It also hints at camping opportunities and other recreation amenities.

“Room for expansion and diversity of offerings for both lodging and aquatics is needed to address growing therapeutic and recreational needs and changing demographics,” it reads.

The family business

Early users called the hot springs pools “plunges.” Based on the history Luehne has learned, someone first dubbed a pool the “Star Plunge” in 1846, inspired by the shape of a nearby rock, and it’s been established as a swimming facility since before 1900.

Roland Luehne’s parents, Wolfgang and Christine, bought the Star Plunge — by then an established aquatic center — decades later in 1975, taking over a 50-year lease from the previous owner.

According to family lore, the Luehnes packed their five kids up for a trip to Yellowstone in 1972, but got lost on the way from Denver and ended up camping in Hot Springs State Park. They discovered the swimming pool and had a great time. They returned for a couple years before Wolfgang discovered the Star Plunge was for sale.

Luehne’s parents sold their house in Denver and moved to Thermopolis, where the entire clan went to work in their new facility. His father put a roof over the pools, which he said was a game changer that extended the season. Wolfgang later blasted out the vapor cave — a small steam box for heat lovers — and built a hot tub.

A sign at the base of a slide at Star Plunge directs users to pull a rope, which indicates they have reached the bottom and the next swimmer can go. (Katie Klingsporn/Pedrodiniz)

In 1982, the Luehnes built the state’s first water slide. The Big Slide still exists 42 years on, as do the indoor tube slide, built in 1987, and an outdoor baby slide, built in 1989. The facility retains a kitschy, Route-66-era vibe and has fans who visit loyally, but senescence has set in. The slides have faded, mineral deposits have streaked surfaces and dust clings to fake plants hanging over the indoor pool.

The corrosive nature of the water makes maintenance very difficult, Luehne said, but they are constantly replacing parts, remodeling showers and keeping things in good order. His family has poured a great deal of effort and money into making the place special, he said. “We try to go the extra mile.”

Loyal soakers

Thermopolis resident Kathy Gregory has a good routine going. Five days a week, she wakes, looks out at the mountains in her backyard and then goes to the Star Plunge with her husband.

There, she exercises in the pool, then soaks in the hot tubs and steam rooms before hitting the showers. “It is just a perfect set up for us,” she said.

It’s also a sweet deal for the Gregorys, who retired to Thermopolis in 2020. They pay $150 each for annual memberships, which breaks down into very small daily costs. 

Gregory is dismayed about the new operator, she said.

“Coming from California, we have seen this happen over and over and over again,” she said, “where small businesses are being shut down and taken over by a corporation.”

In her experience, that process often comes with government promises that get broken.

“Our town does need to grow, we're not disputing that, the park needs help, we’re not disputing that,” Gregory said. “But why an outside corporation, taking it away from a local business person?”

She doesn’t understand why the state can’t work with Luehne to make his facility even better, she said.

The mouth of the Big Spring, which is the major feeder of hot mineral waters to Hot Springs State Park, in May 2024. (Katie Klingsporn/Pedrodiniz)

Janet Henshaw, who visits the Star Plunge regularly from Riverton with her son, a veteran, said they both derive crucial therapeutic benefits from the springs. She disputes the characterization that the facility is outdated.

“It is a place that is comfortable. It's always clean,” she said. After visiting hot springs all over, she believes “it's probably one of the best family oriented environments I've ever been to.”

There’s another thing. The Luehnes care about their customers, she said. Her neighbor once fell and broke several bones, and she helped take him to the Star Plunge after he was released from the hospital.

“When [the Star Plunge staff] found out that we were bringing him, they greeted him at the truck with a wheelchair,” Henshaw said. “They took so much care in getting him into the pool and giving him the ability to get that healing benefit. We were blown away.”

Concerns have also been raised about the state not sticking to its treaty promises to keep the hot springs open to the public. New operators won’t have a bearing on the free access at the state bathhouse, according to State Parks. The state consulted with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes during the master planning process, Neylon said.

Word on the street

In Thermopolis’ tiny downtown, you can find a Carhartt shop, a brewery, a taxidermist, cafes, a quilt shop and several empty storefronts. Pocket parks and benches are readily available, a dinosaur statue pays homage to the area’s rich paleontologic history and free wifi feels like an inviting gesture for visitors.

Inside Town Hall, Thermopolis Mayor Adam Estenson was conducting office hours before heading to his day job at Ryan Bros. Trucking.

A mural in downtown Thermopolis portrays many aspects of the region’s history. The town has been involved in initiatives to welcome tourists. Two artists who run Sage Brushes created the mural. (Katie Klingsporn/Pedrodiniz)

Estenson isn’t on Facebook, but he is aware of the online furor over the park’s future. He’s also been trying to gauge conversations on street corners and in the hardware store.

“What I realized pretty quickly by actually going out and engaging the community is that the people that are talking about it on Facebook, they represent their opinion, but they don't represent the whole,” Estenson said.

People he’s spoken to are happy the state has taken an interest in Thermopolis and ultimately want what’s best for the park, he said. “We all identify that the park is, you know, a lifeblood around here,” Estenson said. “It's beyond even that, really. It’s an identity.”

Because the park is state property, “we as the town council feel that it is of the utmost importance that we are in a good relationship with the state, and that we are at the table as a stakeholder,” he said. The council’s role is to advocate for locals, he added, and that will entail insisting park facilities remain affordable and fit the town aesthetically. The Town Council signed and unanimously approved a letter supporting the recent request for proposal.

Estenson understands the Luehnes’ business interest, he says; his grandparents started the Thermopolis trucking company in the late ‘50s that he works for today.

But he also ran for mayor in part because he feels the town has potential for growth. “And whether we want it or not, that's where the world is going,” he said. “People are leaving urban cores. They're looking for places like Thermopolis.”

Thermopolis Mayor Adam Estenson sits at his desk in Town Hall in May 2024. (Katie Klingsporn/Pedrodiniz)

If the town can continue to diversify its offerings, Estenson said, “now you get people coming and not just staying for a day on their way to Yellowstone, but they come and they stay for a couple of days.”

Negotiations gone sour

Luehne bought the Star Plunge from his parents in 2012. Since their long-term lease with the state expired in 2008, he has been operating on short-term management agreements.

As he walked through the facility, he talked about how the caustic nature of the mineral water makes it very difficult to keep it looking clean and updated.

“You can go into our dressing rooms, and you will see a brand new urinal that's 3 months old, and you would swear it was 20 years old because it's all corroded,” he said.

Despite that, he said, he has worked to increase accessibility, give the place aesthetic character, update features and complete the state’s demands. Today, his daughter, Taylor Sweeney, is the facility manager.

He stood outside with Taylor looking at the Big Slide.

“This used to be all just dirt and weeds … and we’ve landscaped it,” he said, gesturing around. “They state told us, ‘You need to do this,’ and we did. Everything they’ve asked us to do, we’ve done.”

The state does not agree with that assessment.

“If Mr. Luehne had addressed all the issues we brought forward immediately over the years, and had attempted to negotiate in good faith with us on a lease … he could have been in the midst of a 25-year lease right now,” Neylon said. “But he chose not to.”

The agency has attempted to negotiate based on the provisions in the long-term lease Wolfgang and Christine Luehne signed when they took over the facility, Neylon said. That lease “spells out exactly what they are entitled to.”

The Star Plunge was originally established as a wooden structure sometime between the 1890s and early 1900s, according to the Hot Springs Master Plan. Staff members say it was established even earlier. (Jasperdo/FlickrCC)

When they bought the Star Plunge from Scott and Ercil Taylor, for $116,00, they took over a 50-year lease that dates back to 1958. According to that document, “lessees do hereby agree that they will at their own cost during the full term of this lease, keep and maintain the building or buildings thereon, or hereafter erected, and all fixtures and additions thereto, in good and substantial order and repair … that they will also at their own cost keep up and maintain the grounds herein leased … in conformity with the landscape plans and specifications adopted by the state … and pay and discharge, as they may become due and payable, all claims for materials furnished or services rendered upon or concerning said property or the improvements thereon.”

At the end of the lease, according to the contract, the lessee has 60 days to remove personal property, but the state owns the land.

No business person would agree to terms the state has offered, Luehne said, which leave the operator with nothing to show for decades of work.

The operator can be compensated by selling improvements and assets to the new operator, Neylon said. “They are welcome to try to negotiate and sell to the person who’s going to be the new operator.”

Luehne claims he has satisfied all the deferred maintenance needs the state has demanded. He and Neylon both say they expect potential litigation.

A tale of two futures

“I just want everyone to keep in mind that the plan was not created in a vacuum and it included a lot of community outreach and input,” Wyoming State Parks Bighorn Region District Manager Brooks Jordan told Hot Springs County commissioners during a presentation shortly after the state announced the new operator.

The impetus behind requesting new proposals, Jordan said, was to facilitate an “all-encompassing vision for the future of the park.

“We don't see drastic changes happening for that facility,” he said of Star Plunge. “We are just making sure that health and safety concerns are addressed. Critical deferred maintenance items that have gone for years and years unaddressed, we want to make sure those are taken care of.”

Ultimately, he said, the state wants “to make it a place that we can all be proud of and that we all enjoy.” That will entail incorporating more community input into the process and ensuring affordability.

Commissioners gave Jordan a warm reception.

“It’s the state’s state park, we pretend sometimes that it’s Thermopolis’ state park,” Commissioner Phillip Steel said to chuckles. “We’re right on the precipice of amazing things happening at the state park. I’m super excited for the opportunity we have there.”

That support goes beyond board rooms, Neylon said. “We firmly believe that the tide has turned in Thermopolis and there are far more people who are behind what we're doing than people who oppose us.”

Star Plunge owner Roland Luehne stands in front of historic signs decorating a wall at the aquatic facility. (Katie Klingsporn/Pedrodiniz)

But back in the Star Plunge, Luehne told a different story.

“People are scared, they are angry, they are upset,” he said. “It’s going to change Thermopolis completely.”

Nobody involved pretends the situation is fun for Luehne and his family. But is there an outcome that could satisfy him? He paused to think about it.

“The one thing that would satisfy me is if the state would just be fair … replacement value would be fair.” He declined to offer a figure, but reiterated that he has plenty of support for that outcome.

“We have thousands and thousands and thousands of signatures of people saying, ‘Stop what you're doing,’” Luehne said.

Katie Klingsporn reports on outdoor recreation, public lands, education and general news for Pedrodiniz. She’s been a journalist and editor covering the American West for 20 years. Her freelance work has...

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  1. If the corporation raises prices for the public where they're unaffordable for the common man, then I believe the state facility that is free to the public should enlarge their facility to accommodate the overflow of the public who could no longer afford the Teepee and Star Plunge. Also they should modify the 15 minute length of stay to an hour.

  2. I have enjoyed the park, Thermopolis, and especially the Star Plunge since the 1970's. I am very disturbed about the proposed changes. We were there recently and observed the Plunge to be clean and inviting with summer flowers. Last year a new gazebo was added for parents to watch their children and new windows installed. A gentleman was gently advised that his “Public Display of Affection” with his partner would not be tolerated. A lifeguard asked a child to swim so she could determine that he was safe climbing the ladder to jump off the high jump. She was cheerful and supportive during his two attempts.
    There were several out-of-county schools that were celebrating the end of the school year, along with Amish families, and people from three different countries at the pool.
    Having booze inside the park will be a disaster. Booze and water don't mix. Currently, if a staff member detects a person has been drinking they are asked to leave the plunge. Safety first!
    Proposed changes will result in infrastructure problems including a need for increased law enforcement, health care, stores (currently there is only one small grocery store), housing, and education. The increase of employees may only be needed for a months out of the year. Then the rest of the people from around the state who go there all months of the year will be left with higher admission prices. Additionally, what do those extra employees do for employment during the off-season?
    I understand that Roland's bid did not include management of the Hot Springs Hotel. That is totally understandable as it requires a different skill set. He has plans for improvement to the Star Plunge, Governor Gordon give him a chance to carry out those plans! Open up a bid process for another entity to take on the hotel, camping, etc.

  3. I grew up there. I want my children to see it how I did. Roland's family cares more about that place then probably everyone combined. He's a great guy with a good heart. I know because as a kid one day he let me pick out any candy bar I wanted from the star. He paid for it and I was just some kid to him. 25 years later I ponder all the things he has done for that community and it's people just out of the kindness of his heart. States wrong and the people that in charge come and go, yet Roland's family stays!

  4. Can you follow up on “Critical deferred maintenance items that have gone for years and years unaddressed”. I think it would round out this reporting to know exactly what these items are. When I hear the word “critical” I think of items that if left not repaired would result in injury or death and does not include a mineral stained urinal.

  5. Both my kids now adults learned to swim at this pool. Roland and his family have always been gracious and friendly and wonderful owners. Welcoming to everyone. This breaks my heart it will lose the personable people we've all grown to love and trust to make sure our friends and family are safe and they enjoy this facility. I will no longer frequent here if it is run by others and im sure the feeling is mutual with alot of other people that stand behind this fantastic caring family.

  6. Having served on the State Parks and Cultural Resources Commission for ten years a number of years ago I am glad State Parks has finally made this decision to seek a new concessionaire for Hot Spring State Park. This issue came up at almost every Commission meeting we had. I was astounded to learn that the percentage the state received from the concessionaires was only 1% and improvements were not being made, especially at the pools. I was further distraught when the state had to begin with monthly leases. That was a very poor business practice when the concessionaires would oppose anything that the State recommended beginning with increasing the State's income from the properties. The concessionaires opposed almost everything the State proposed and would not sign a new contract. We took our children to Thermopolis to swim when they were growing up and I was never pleased with the condition of the facilities: mold growing on the dressing room walls, dirty swimsuits and towels thrown in the corner, watching the person at the front desk pocket our entrance fees, no cash register to record income, the concessionaires complaining that the State wasn't making sure that the water temperature stay high enough or the flow was not what they wanted, etc. This is a geologic feature and the water temperature is at the whim of Mother Nature. What was the State to do about this? Could the problem be so many using the waters (pools, camp grounds, hotels, etc.) that the water table was being depleted? Just notice today who much water is not running over the big rock in the park. The SPCR Commissioners are unpaid volunteers who give their time and energies to this do what's right for the people of our great state. They do not make decisions without having first studied all of the options available and never make arbitrary decision “under the table” as has been charged in another comment. It was my experience that recommendations and suggestions were presented to the commissioners and then decisions were made. Never were the commissioners instructed to vote on an issue one way or the other and SPCR was always truthful and transparent with us, as well as the public. More than one meeting was held in Thermopolis during my tenure on the commission to get public input on this issue to no avail. This move by the State is long overdue and I, for one, am pleased that it has finally been resolved with a new concessionaire.

    1. More people need to read your comment.

      Those who claim the star plunge is a clean, friendly, up to date facility are being disingenuous.

    2. Sounds more like the guy got away with running things on a shoestring for years until it finally caught up with him. He profited off of people's nostalgia more than anything. Now the ride's over. It was bound to happen. The bigger mystery is what took so long.

  7. I think it's very sad to know that yet another Wyoming landmark for many families sounds like is going to be California-ized.
    As a Wyoming native it is very sad to see businesses like this being flipped and going bigger and better. Bigger and better is not always what's best.
    It won't be the same visiting now, and that's even if as a family of 4 will be even to afford to visit again. Very disappointed in the decision, the people should be heard and thought of who live there year round this is their home and probably has been for years and choose a simplier way of life not a California life.

  8. My family has enjoyed coming to the Star Plunge and the Teepee from Colorado for decades. The motel options on site and in town are not acceptable. The last time we stayed on site I decided we wouldn't be back until I knew there would be a decent place to spend the night. We love the Star Plunge as it is but, I think it's success is hampered by the motel problem.

  9. Thanks for a well balanced article. I believe the state should require the new concessionaire to pay for at least some of the improvements, not advise Luehne to “try to negotiate.” I hope the entry prices don't rise out of reach for Wyomingites.

  10. I don't understand why they want to give hotsprings state park a total make over when it is the most visited state park in the state !!!!!!!!!!!
    Just to add my family has been goin to the star plunge for 5 generations. The way Roland, his family and staff always treat their guests with heart and make them feel like family and it would be a tragedy to lose such a great place that has heart and soul!!!!!!! Wyoming needs more places like this and less places from out of state trying to just get rich !!!!!!

  11. Money talks, and BS walks.... again. Yes change happens, and yes Wyoming must move ahead. It's more the process and the disregard for a better effort to involve all stake holders. The stake holders are not just The Thermop folks, but all of Wyoming. That includes many of us that want to Wyoming move in to the 21st Century with careful planning and more concern for our history and existing citizens and business people. Looks like we will be creating another mess like Jackson hole and other places where the citizens of Wyoming can no longer afford to live much less enjoy. Good thing they have that new airport for hosting those executive aircraft. Someone is going to make money and many will be from other places.

    1. Agreed , The current folks are good people leave them alone. the state needs to learn there is a lever A and lever B. Lever B in this case.

  12. As a long term Wyoming native, I can understand the state's desire to have a modern and safe facility. I also think that what they have done is reprehensible and should be stopped and dropped immediately. The land under lease won't change, but the facility will. If you want to explore upgrades to the facilities then it is time to talk with the current existing lease holder. Explore what changes are expected, what are desirable, and what is fluff. Let the people of Wyoming help figure out how to make the changes needed.
    I agree that it will become too expensive and that this is not the way we do business in Wyoming.

  13. Our family has been enjoying Thermopolis during our vacation to the parks frequently over the past 30 years. My biggest concern is that this is going to turn into an overpriced playground and it will take away from the charm in the small town feeling a Thermopolis which we love. I think I speak for most people when they say they go on a trip like this they go to get away from my metropolis type infrastructure . I like the simple and fun and warm feeling the star plunge gives us when we visit I’ve never had a complaint they keep it clean affordable and it’s tons of fun it doesn’t need high dollar slides and play equipment and the idea of a brewery or a beer establishment close by does not excite me either.
    I also wonder if the camping will be affordable camping everywhere is already gone up and this will be like a Resort. I have a feeling a lot of younger families will not be able to afford this.

  14. That is a very well written article. thank you. Brooks Jordan and Nick Neylon both say things that make you scratch your head. Jordan says that the state park decisions “were not created in a vacuum”. Well, yea, actually they were created in a vacuum. Very little input from Wyoming people, because they knew that if they allowed input from Wyoming people their grand design would not be supported. They met with Thermopolis people and city leaders after all of their decisions had already been made. Many of their comments point toward the economic and money side of changes with very little consideration for the healing properties of the water and the joy the pools provide for families. Neylon said that this will have a “tremendous economic impact in the community and across the region”. Its all about money and climbing the wyoming state government ladder. Mark Begich, the owner of Hot Springs LLC, who is taking over both pools already owns 2 hot springs. He charges by the hour at both. At Jemez Hot Springs he charges $25/hour, $50 if you want to stay for 2 hours. The Star Plunge charges $15.50 for a 12 hour day and you can come and go. His other hot springs is Carson City (Nevada) Hot Springs. They charge $17 for 2 hours, and they have a 100 visit swim card for only $1200. yes, that's one thousand two hundred dollars. Compare that to the Star Plunge. They charge about $186 for a full year. For seniors it is $150 for a year. Very very reasonable. Lets give Roland a thank you for keeping the admission prices low so they could be affordable. And if you think its too expensive look up the prices at the Bozeman Hot Springs or Pagosa Springs. It is unbelievable the prices that they charge. We have had it very good with Roland these past years. It has allowed a lot of Wyoming people to relax and heal in the pools that are not going to be able to when Mark Begich takes over. So you can see where we are headed. Neylon, Jordan and Begich may not make the changes right away but rest assured they will be made in the long run. The prices that they will charge by the hour will make the Star Plunge (if they even plan on keeping the Star Plunge. Their plan is deliberately vague so that they can do whatever they want once the big takeover takes place) unaffordable for many Wyoming residents. There are a lot of families who enjoy the hot springs now who can't pay $50 for each family member to swim for 2 hours. Young kids, old folks, people on fixed incomes, schools that bring their kids to the plunge in the spring, many are going to miss out on a fabulous and valuable Wyoming tradition because it is going to be too expensive. Neylon and Jordan both have stars and dollar signs in their eyes and its going to have a negative effect on Wyoming people. It needs to be affordable and with the coming changes it will not be. It will be for the rich and famous. Family owned is much better for Wyoming people than corporate owned. Their is no LLC behind Roland's name.

    1. Thank you Jim Jurosek for your direct thoughts and researched information given in your opinion message regarding HOT Dprings State Park and the individual entities to include the Star Plunge. I was born in Thermopolis in 1960 and moved to Dubois WY seven years later. I'm a Wyoming resident of 63 years and a retired teacher spending an entire career in Specialized Special Education working with mild, moderate, and severely disabled students from elementary through beyond high school. I have a family of my own in which in the early days was very difficult to scratch up the money to get back to Thermopolis to bring to my family the joys, beauty, and wonderful, and unique swim experiences. But we did. Thermopolis is a beautiful place, but the Hot Springs Park and all the swimming facilities are both uniquely special and specialized in their therapeutic enrichment. Both while working with Special Education students and with my own family traveling to those facilities, cost of those facilities to include room and board are a definite concern. Affordability is of great concern for underprivileged and moderate income families. Moreover, we travel clear across the state to go to Thermopolis and I'm always looking for familiarity and quaintness that the HotSprings State Park offers. I would truely hate a great change to that familiarity.

  15. This might not smell so bad if the state had indicated they were looking for someone else to run it and why. As it is the whole thing looks really sneaky and under the table to put money in someone's pocket. Why was there no contract, does the new guy have one?

  16. Everyone wants new shiny facilities. Ever growing new toys to ride or soak in. Corporations do not care about the locals. It will all be luring in tourists and bleeding every dime out of them. Prices will triple or more under corporate rule.

    1. Chief Washikie signed off on transfership of Hot Springs management as long as the public was guaranteed “free, full and unfettered access to the hot springs for all time” What gives with that? When prices approach those quoted that seems to be a significant question. I have found the state pool to be clean and acceptable for most though time limits are a bit daunting and short. BS

      1. I don't see anything in this article that says folks will be charged to bath in the bath house. Hopefully it stays free. Lots of things are changing in Wyoming, and none of it's good.

      1. Wasn't the hot springs part of the reservation until he was forced to sell it? Or do I have that wrong?