Hotel Saranac sign lights up once again

People take photos Saturday evening of the newly lit Hotel Saranac sign, which for a few seconds only lit the letters that spell “Hot Sara,” an intentional nod to what may be truth or local legend about the hotel’s old neon sign sometimes reading “Hot Sara.” These people were at an official sign-lighting watch party at William Morris Park and the Adirondack Carousel in Saranac Lake. The landmark hotel in the heart of downtown is being renovated for a scheduled May opening. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

SARANAC LAKE — “Is there anybody here whose name is Sara?”

That’s the first question village Mayor Clyde Rabideau asked a crowd of about 100 people who stood outside the Adirondack Carousel in the cold and snow Saturday night.

One woman raised her hand.

“Anybody named Hot Sara?” the mayor asked next.

A small cheer went up from the crowd. It was followed a few moments later by a much louder cheer as the mayor counted down from 10 and the Hotel Saranac’s rooftop sign was re-lit, taking its rightful place again atop the village’s nighttime skyline.

In a nod to bit of local nostalgia, the LED-powered sign came on first as “HOT SARA.” Three seconds later, the remaining letters were turned on.

“We are lit from here on out,” said Hotel Saranac General Manager Michael Salyers. “This was the iconic moment to let people know we’re moving forward. We’re going to get this open. And it’s right around the corner.”

The hotel, purchased by Roedel Companies in 2013, has been undergoing a $35 million renovation. Its projected opening date has been pushed back repeatedly, but construction crews are working hard to finish the project this spring. They face a May 1 deadline to get the hotel reopened and operating, under the terms of a loan Roedel Companies secured last year.

“We’re optimistic we’re going to get there,” Salyers said. “We’re certainly shooting for the quickest we can get people in the hotel.

“Things are going very well. Lots of people are in there working now. They’re working from the sixth floor down. We have lots of infrastructure in the basement, carpet, tiles in the sixth floor, with furniture going in behind it. We’re starting to build a staff. Things are moving along.”

The new sign was installed on the roof last fall. One thing that hasn’t been completed, however, is permanent power for the building, Salyers said. So when he told representatives of ROK Builders, Roedel Companies’ construction wing, to flip the switch on the sign Saturday night, they had to do it from the hotel’s roof.

“We’ve got power but it’s not the permanent switch,” Salyers said. “We have some faithful people up there who took care of it for us. And we will have a toggle switch so we have the ability to make it do Hot Sara or Hotel Saranac whenever we want.”

The sign lighting took place on the biggest night of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, when many former Saranac Lakers return home for the parade and visit some of their old haunts. The Hotel Saranac has historically been a site for carnival events in the past and likely will be again once it reopens.

“It really is the icon of our downtown and our community,” Rabideau said. “It’s part of our history and part of our future.”

The fact that Rabideau took part in Saturday night’s event is notable, as Roedel Companies is currently suing the village over its approval of a potentially competing resort on Lake Flower. The proposed Lake Flower Resort and Spa cleared its last big regulatory hurdle Friday when it was approved by the state Adirondack Park Agency.

Rabideau said lawsuits like the one brought by Roedel Companies come with the territory of being mayor, but he said he decided to participate in the sign lighting for “the greater good.

“We need hotels, and the Hotel Saranac is the icon,” he said. “Let’s get it open. Let’s get it operating. Let’s get cracking. We’ve got another hotel in the wings, and I see great things for Saranac Lake.”