Horse Sense

Alisal's Main Lobby

“We understood that our guests had brought the spa life into their daily lifestyle,” says Alisal’s director of activities, Marcy Payne. “We see a lot of the rich and famous here and, of course, they want to treat themselves. For these fast-paced folks, a stay at the Alisal should be slow and relaxed and include all those special treats they’re accustomed to having at home. Ultimately, we realized that a spa wasn’t just a trendy option—it was a necessity.”

Eight years later, the Alisal broke ground on the spa, taking over the land where one of the resort’s seven tennis courts had stood. As management envisioned it, the 5,500-square-foot Fitness Center and Spa would be replete with a 1,500-square-foot workout room offering cardio and weight-training equipment; a 1,000-square-foot group fitness room to accommodate yoga and Pilates classes; men’s and women’s locker rooms; and a spacious lobby with a comfortable sitting area, fresh juice bar and retail space.

Building took place at the height of the recession, when almost every vacation destination was suffering financially, but the decision-makers were not to be dissuaded. “We had done the research and knew that the spa and fitness offerings would really add to our existing activities,” says Payne.

If there was any residual resistance it came from the tension of blending a spa into the ranch’s predominant Western theme. But Payne helped to integrate the new building into the decades-old patina’d structures by working with the architect from the onset. She suggested, for instance, that the center be designed to look like a barn, with 12-foot ceilings for the common areas and gym, to instill a hayloft feel.