The New and Improved Central Spa

Duncan Collins, General Manager – Central Spa

If you are heading to the Central Spa club for men and haven’t been in awhile, you are in for a pleasant surprise. The space has a sleek new look, some sexy new features, and a new General Manager who has big plans for Hamilton’s iconic bathhouse.

Duncan Collins, newly hired general manager for all five Central Spa locations (including ours here in The Hammer) has a passion for his work and endearing enthusiasm for the space’s potential.

“We have big plans coming up” says Collins, which include “a brand new sexy shower, an upgrade to the cedar dry sauna, improved play spaces, more TVs playing a new assortment of hot porn, various visual touches to cover all the grey walls and my favorite, a funky lounge just outside the locker room for guys to chill while taking a break from the fun”. Of the work that has been done already, he says “It was a long process with the private room upgrades, but it was worth it. The locker room was a sore spot for most customers and staff with rusty old lockers and bad lighting, but now it’s looking amazing with cedar benches and brand new lockers. We just finished up the wet steam room of our dreams, and the guys are loving it”.

All that work has already paid off, and the much needed face-lift, even with more work being planned, has already gone a long way to making the space feel warmer, cleaner, and more inviting.

Collins, who describes himself as “a customer service guy” with 20 years experience and a natural fit for running a bathhouse as someone who has “always had a positive attitude when it comes to sex”, returned to Ontario to take this position after a brief stay in Vancouver. He has some history with Central Spa as the manager of the Ottawa location (better known as Club Ottawa) for many years, and having left on good terms with the business owner, he was happy to return as a general manager running all five of Central Spa’s locations. Says Collins, “It’s exciting to be able to spend my time trying to create a cool space for guys in each community”.

In addition to the renovations, Collins is excited to improve the spaces vibe, and has already made some big changes. He has switched up the music selection to “something a little more sexy to match the mood we wanted to inspire”, and the bathhouse has replaced its original student pricing with what it is now calling ‘freshman rates’. “The difference” says Collins, “is that any young guy between the age of 18 and 24 gets in at half price whether they are a student or not”. He plans to start circulating posters around town advertising the new rates, hoping to spread the word to young guys who might not even know about Central Spa. “I didn’t know about bathhouses until I was 27… I was horny as hell at their age!” he says.

Collins also has plans to bring back special events, some that have been tried before and some that are new to the space. “We definitely want to bring back blackout Thursdays” he says, “with the exit of the hot tub in a couple months we can get creative with the lights. While in Ottawa I started handing out those dollar store glow sticks for blackout and they were a big hit; we still do it, guys use them as cock rings, so you can imagine the site of a dark space with only neon lit erections, it’s fun”. He also wants to bring back Bear Night, and hopes to bring a new jockstrap night into the schedule.

Collins is also passionate about involvement with community, encouraging sexual health and working with outreach programs. (Full disclosure, the author of this piece is also an outreach worker who partner’s with Central Spa to offer HIV testing and sexual health counselling). Says Collins ”We hope to expand our relationship with all the outreach programs here, so guys have a safe space to seek answers to questions they have”. Currently Central Spa works with Hamilton Public Health and The AIDS Network to provide rapid, anonymous HIV testing three times per month and is available to any man who wants to drop by.  He has hopes of doing even more health promotion work in the space. “I’m looking to improve our community board by turning the entire area into a one stop resource space where guys can find informative posters, pamphlets and an entire wall of assorted condoms” he says. “There’s a lot of misinformation being communicated, so the best way to combat that is with friendly interaction between our clients and informed professionals”

So why should you check out the new and improved Central Spa? “When you come to Central Spa everything you need is here. There is no mistaking a guys intentions, if he is in a bathhouse he is seeking sex”. He continues, “If your new to the whole scene it can be nerve-wracking, but knowing everyone else felt that way too helps. You have places to duck into & staff on hand if things go south. There’s no fake profiles, no shows, bad directions, scary encounters or mixed messages. If you see a guy you’re interested in at the baths, and he’s into you too, you see where it goes. If he ends up not being right? Guess what… the doorbell just rang and another guy will be walking by in his towel soon”.

Collins also has thoughts about what it takes for his locations to thrive in today’s context, saying that he recognizes the importance of customer service when there are so many other options (like apps) for guys to use to get laid. “I’m a customer service guy. I believe in a good repeat customer, so that means treating guys with respect, keeping the place clean and keeping out trouble. That’s what the new & improved Hamilton Central Spa is going to be about”. His customer service standards are clear and simple:  “Be friendly, keep it clean and keep the guys safe”.

He is excited to officially launch the new and improved space, saying he hopes to be happy with the changes being made by sometime in July. “We want to hold a great weekend party with door prizes, food and as many horny guys we can fit into the place” he says. In the meantime, he is encouraged by the response he is already getting from his guests. “I love the sense of community Central Spa guests have!” he says, “I’ve been here almost 2 months, and I’ve been happy to hear back from guys online or in person about how much the space means to them. Guys want the place to succeed, and want their opinions to be heard because it’s more than just a place to get laid. The renovations were annoying, but guys were happy to see something being done to improve a place that they enjoy”.

Check out Central Spa’s website here for more information.

James Dee

James Dee is an editor at Bent Q Media, a queer community organizer and sexual health educator in Hamilton, Ontario.

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