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Murrieta Hot Springs Resort to reopen for guests in February

Former hangout for Hollywood stars will welcome the public after years hosting religious retreats

The adults-only pool at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta is seen Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, from the historic bathhouse. The resort, built more than 100 years ago, is set to reopen to guests from the general public in February after nearly 30 years of other uses. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
The adults-only pool at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta is seen Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, from the historic bathhouse. The resort, built more than 100 years ago, is set to reopen to guests from the general public in February after nearly 30 years of other uses. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Sarah Hofmann
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The whirring of power tools echoed across the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort’s of swimming pools and historic architecture Thursday morning, Jan. 11.

The eastern Murrieta property, known for the geothermal water that bubbles from its hillside, is set to reopen as a wellness resort Thursday, Feb. 1, after serving as a religious retreat for roughly 30 years.

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Meanwhile, construction crews are working to ready the sprawling resort for guests. During a Thursday media tour, dozens of workers were digging pools, repairing roads and sidewalks and installing fixtures in buildings.

The hot springs’ history reaches much further back than the buildings.

  • The Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta is seen Thursday,...

    The Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta is seen Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The resort, built more than 100 years ago, is set to reopen to guests in February after nearly 30 years of other uses. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Final work at the bathhouse building of the Murrieta Hot...

    Final work at the bathhouse building of the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta continues Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The complex is set to reopen in February. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Hot spring water flows through the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort...

    Hot spring water flows through the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The historic resort is undergoing preparations for a February reopening. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Members of the news media get a Thursday, Jan. 11,...

    Members of the news media get a Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, tour of a mineral pool at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A safety notice sign for the hot springs is seen...

    A safety notice sign for the hot springs is seen Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Palm trees line the lake at the Murrieta Hot Springs...

    Palm trees line the lake at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The historic resort is set to reopen in February. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Surrounded by palm trees, the lake at the Murrieta Hot...

    Surrounded by palm trees, the lake at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta is seen Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Crews work on a pool inside the bathhouse at the...

    Crews work on a pool inside the bathhouse at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The historic resort is undergoing renovations ahead of a planned February reopening. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A duck swims Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, at the Murrieta...

    A duck swims Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort, with hotels visible behind. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • The adults-only pool is seen Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, from...

    The adults-only pool is seen Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, from the historic bathhouse at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • The Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta is seen Thursday,...

    The Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta is seen Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The resort, built over 100 years ago, is set to reopen to guests in February after nearly 30 years of other uses. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Palm trees line the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta...

    Palm trees line the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A vitality plunge pool, which will offer a temperature of...

    A vitality plunge pool, which will offer a temperature of 54 degrees, is seen Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, at Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • An egret searches Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, for food in...

    An egret searches Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, for food in the lake at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Construction work continues Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, near the lake...

    Construction work continues Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, near the lake at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta. The historic resort is gearing up for a planned February reopening. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • The adults-only pool at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in...

    The adults-only pool at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort in Murrieta is seen Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, from the historic bathhouse. The resort, built more than 100 years ago, is set to reopen to guests from the general public in February after nearly 30 years of other uses. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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The “geothermal anomaly” is likely due to the Elsinore fault zone’s proximity, according to a 1980s California Department of Conservation . Before Europeans reached present-day Murrieta in the 1800s, the water was used by the native Luiseño people, the city’s states.

In the 1870s, the property was still ranchland, and Spanish immigrant Juan Murrieta would wash his sheep in the spring water, according to the city’s . Having heard of the water’s healing properties, Fritz Guenther bought the land in 1902 and turned it into a resort, which soon attracted visitors from across the country, according to the resort’s . Guests included such as Jack Benny and Marilyn Monroe.

Beginning around 1970, the resort changed hands and purposes .

In 1995, it was bought by the , a Christian megachurch based in Orange County, and became the Christian Conference Center and Bible College Campus. Some Murrieta residents the property — which had been a nightclub for the first half of the 1990s — was closed to the public.

The church listed the property in 2021, and in 2022, for $50 million to the , whose other projects include a in Colorado.

Murrieta Mayor said Friday, Jan. 12, that she’s excited to see the resort return to its original use.

There’s a personal tie for Stone, who lived in the adjacent mobile home park in 1976, when she was 14, and later resided in one of the condos below the property.

The resort will “impact our local residents in such a positive way,” she said, mentioning the day-pass option, the restaurants — which will be open to the public — and the fact that the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort Conference Center will be used for like the State of the City address.

“It’s going to be absolutely amazing,” she said, adding that the resort will “put Murrieta on the map.”

Construction and renovation cost about $50 million, Jesse Hensle, vice president of marketing, said.

Those efforts began about 18 months ago, said David Dronet, managing partner of Olympus Real Estate Group.

Dronet said the wellness industry has “become the primary focus” of the group, which has a four-part “vitality ethos,” that consists of sleep, nutrition, exercise and revitalization.

“The core of what we do is in the revitalization piece,” Dronet said. “That’s the waters, the spa treatments, all the contrast therapies that are offered across the property.”

Marcus Coplin, the resort’s medical director, whose background is in naturopathic medicine, said the spring water’s alkalinity and minerals, which include sodium, potassium, chloride, boron, silica, lithium, and a high amount of bicarbonate, are what make it special.

The and the list the minerals as characteristic or common in natural mineral waters, except for boron or boric acid, which the latter says is uncommon, but found in large amounts in Southern California springs.

None of the resorts buildings were replaced. Instead, the existing structures, including the bathhouse and hotel buildings, which are dated roughly from the 1910s to 1960s, have been renovated. Staff joked that they had received the “refresh” often referenced in the plastic surgery industry.

The oldest is the Monterey Lodge, which Coplin said was built around 1918.

The Historic Bathhouse, which Coplin said was constructed in the 1940s, has the white walls and arched doorways of the Spanish revival style often found in Southern California. It includes soaking pools of various temperatures, a sauna, a rooftop for sunbathing and a mud loft. The mud is made of spring water and clay sourced from the Mohave Desert.

Sharon Holtz, vice president of wellness, said a focus that has informed the resort’s spaces is “social wellness” and being able to bring guests together, especially in areas such as the bathhouse.

All together, the resort has more than 50 pools and water features — some filled with spring water, and some with traditionally treated pool water. The spring water surfaces, steaming, near the top of the property, and Coplin said the temperature fluctuates between about 120 and 130 degrees. Water then moves downward through the pools before settling into a lake and pond, and eventually seeping back underground.

Some amenities, including the bathhouse and spa, will be open Feb. 1. Others will welcome visitors in the coming months, like the restaurant, Talia, which is set to open in April. Guests can also enjoy a bar, a cafe and a fitness center.

The resort has , which Hensle said will increase to 220 “when all is said and done.” Rooms $399 a night. The for day passes is $79 for adults and $45 for children 13 and younger.

Hensle said the resort eventually will have more than 200 employees, some of whom also worked there when the church owned it. Once the grounds are running at full capacity, the resort can accommodate 800 day passes in addition to the hotel guests, Hensle said.

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