A comeback for family-affordable Hecla Resort

By Joan Cohen

A little bit of heaven nestled in Lake Winnipeg.
A little bit of heaven nestled in Lake Winnipeg.

Hecla Resort is making its comeback – under new owners, Lakeview Hotels & Resorts, and with what is certainly a standout, winning mix of offerings:
a high-standard facility and affordable prices. All this, in its memorably gorgeous setting and supplemented by outstanding recreation facilities.

The public got its first look at Lakeview Hecla Resort and Golf Course May 3, a week ahead of its ribbon-cutting, grand-opening May 10. Cleaned and shined up for this debut, the resort will however look pretty much unchanged, after a multi-million refurbishment under the Radisson hotels label that came up cash-short.

The aim of its owners at that time was to establish the Hecla property as a five-star hotel, with high-flying guests dropping by from Europe and Asia, and from among the planet’s eco-tourist crowd. That classy market, suggests Lakeview Hecla marketing co-ordinator Chris Miller today, didn’t exist for a distant and obscure island resort in the centre of Manitoba and the property soon went into receivership.

Indeed the resort’s greatest transformation, after a 21/2-year closure, is in its pricing, with rooms that once went for $200 a night now renting for a family-affordable $99 weekdays and $119 weekends,in the off-season,“a bit more” in summer.

Like Hecla Resort’s high bills of the past, gone, too, is one of its two restaurants – the upstairs eating place that reached for the top with a menu dedicated to “fine dining” for a clientele that never materialized. The new owners don’t feel there’s a need for that kind of facility, Chris explains.

Here's to a taste of elegant living!
Here’s to a taste of elegant living!

Instead, Lakeview Hecla Resort is looking to the return of its original clientele: when the resort was called Gull Harbor and its guests were families and essentially local people, with some driving in from across the province. For them, the main floor, casual family-style restaurant will do just fine and it stays. It has a fully licenced lounge, and a nice big patio overlooking the lake.

Of course, recreation facilities – many of them tailored to families — are also central to the resort’s offering. Waiting outdoors is a family water park with a three-storey water slide and a pool area with a hot tub.

Inside is an impressive adult spa, with a mineral pool, a hydro kinetic pool, and a whirlpool. The whirlpool has a gravel bottom with air jets underneath that offer guests the interesting experience of having their feet massaged as they walk. Another interesting experience – certainly a chilling one – begins in the spa’s steam room with its hot tub and is highlighted by a followed-up plunge into a roughly zero-degrees pool. Guests, it’s promised, will feel rejuvenated.

Then there’s the prestigious Hecla golf course, widely known as one of Manitoba’s best. In a normal year, the championship 18-hole course, a major Hecla attraction would be open by now. It brings in many a visitor for an over-night stay or two.

Weekends, families coming to enjoy the pools will also set off on one of the many hiking trails, play volleyball on the small provincial beach nearby, or check out other amenities of Hecla Island provincial park: renting a kayak, fishing equipment or a bike, or in winter cross-country skis perhaps or snowshoes.

The hotel has 90 rooms, and nine meeting rooms for the conferences that are so basic to its operations. The conference rooms accommodate eight to 300 people and are popular for corporate retreats. Groups gathering for a couple of days get to enjoy a change of scene for meetings or some special team building exercises – and of course some especially appreciated hikes and recreation.

Lakeside Hecla will be open now through to the launch of new year, 2014. The three months following are traditionally Hecla’s slow period, and management plans to wait and see how business develops before committing to staying open or closing. With their new family-affordable mix of offerings, they may have some difficulty getting away.

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