Senate spa gets pricey facelift: Lawmakers, staff tightlipped about exclusive luxury facility

(Note: On a lighter note -- no pun intended -- can you imagine what Ted Kennedy, McCain and Gephardt would look like if they DIDN'T use this spa! Scary thought, that!)

February 22, 2003

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As the nation hits the debt limit of $6.4 trillion, renovation work wraps up at the Senate spa, which is described by an insider as "expensive," reports The Hill.

Located inside the Senate Health and Fitness Facility on the first floor of the Russell Office Building, the facility is off-limits to anyone but senators. The Senate operates the facility.

Dr. John Eisold, the Senate physician, completed an inspection walk-through of the spa late last year, at the request of Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and concluded it was antiquated and in need of modernization.

It has been undergoing renovations since the summer.

The cost of the renovations is anyone's guess. Officials remain tightlipped.

The paper questioned the spokesman for the architect, Senate Rules Committee's majority staff director Susan Wells, minority staff director Kennie Gill and an official with the Superintendent's Office who worked on the project, but could not elicit details about the work or its associated cost.

"It was expensive," The Hill quotes a well-placed source, who would talk only on condition of anonymity, as saying.

"There's nothing new. They're just cleaning it up," Dodd, the ranking member of the Rules Committee who was chairman when the renovations began, told the paper.

"There were some real problems with asbestos and with lead paint, with access for the handicapped, and we had to get some new facilities for the women," he added.

The well-placed source begs to differ.

According to the source, the fitness spa now has two upgraded steam rooms and saunas, one for men and one for women, sleeping rooms, massage rooms, a new hot tub and "top of the line" workout equipment.

In addition, a team of eight mosaic artists from New Ravenna Mosaics, a Virginia-based company, reportedly spent a week last month designing and installing a tiled medallion that will decorate the wall of the renovated spa.

The same design company has completed mosaics for the Argosy Casino in Kansas and for celebrities such as Madonna, James Earl Jones and Tom Hanks.

The cost of marble mosaics can approach $600 per square foot.

To get the rehab work finished by January, reports the paper, builders compounded the cost with overtime pay.

Eva Maleke, the spokeswoman for the architect, released a statement stating that the center was originally constructed in 1909 and has not seen drastic changes since the mid-1960s.

When asked about the renovations, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., chairman of Rules Committee responded, "I hope that fungus that used to infect me is not there."