Photo of three men in a hot tub.
Photo by Todd Cooper

Hot Water Therapy

Objects in tub may be smaller than they appear

Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had were in the tub.

In fact, the first time I’d ever been to Springfield Spas and Tanning, an hourly hot tub rental and tanning salon on Main Street in Springfield, was for the sole purpose of therapy.

In 2014, I’d just moved to Eugene after getting out of drug rehab. I had been staying in a halfway house. The other men in the house had noticed my suffering as I was trying to stay sober and sane, so they invited me to tub.

It was there, while chain-smoking Newports under the partially covered sky, that I was given the pep talk that saved my life — and kept me returning to Springfield Spas for years to come. And while I later learned that you’re actually not allowed to smoke in the hot tubs, it’s still much more than simple hydrotherapy for your tense muscles.

Springfield Spas first opened in 1985. Current owner RaeLynn Neal remembers first coming to soak just out of high school, having grown up in Pleasant Hill.

“Hydrotherapy is one of the best things in the world,” Neal says. “Even in the summertime I just turn them down to swimming pool temperature, and the hydrotherapy cools you down instead of heats you up.”

Before Neal became the owner of Springfield Spas in 2010, she had worked for five years as the manager, running the day-to-day operations of the spa. She’s noticed a change within the community these past few years. 

“I’ve been here for 15 years now and I’ve watched the ups and downs of Main Street,” Neal says. “In 2005, it was pretty rough. We attracted a crowd that you didn’t necessarily want hanging around. So there was a lot of growing pains and a lot of learning.”

With no business degree, Neal learned how to run the spa on her own and has watched the business become more successful throughout the years. She remembers getting swindled on hot tub parts in the early days.

“I’ve learned a ton,” Neal says. “I didn’t have any official training on how to repair pumps or anything like that, and people try to take advantage of you — especially being a female. A lot of times guys will try to pull the wool over your eyes and get you to buy things that you didn’t necessarily need.”

Neal says both of her daughters’ first jobs were at the spa, and the community surrounding the location is only getting stronger and more tight-knit. 

“My grandson, when he was young, stayed here a lot with me because his mom was in school,” Neal said. “It’s been a family affair for a long time. It’s beautiful.” 

The spa stays open until midnight on weekdays, with the latest possible booking at 11 pm. On the weekend, it stays open until 1 am. It offers a variety of hot tub rentals, ranging in sizes and temperatures. You can also choose whether the roof is fully or partially covered, allowing you to see the stars when weather permits. Every room has stereos with Bluetooth capabilities and small showers for rinsing off. 

At the time, it was the perfect activity for people in recovery: a late-night outing that promoted human connection without the presence of alcohol. It was in these repeated tubs with my sober roommates that I learned how to love myself — and how to love others.

Since then, I’ve realized that tubbing isn’t just for the sober; it isn’t only for those of us who are sore or struggling. It’s an incredible experience for anybody looking to escape the moving, shifting, meandering spectrum of decay that permeates our mortal existence. 

You can almost feel the warmth of the water the moment you make the reservation. You can practically hear the white noise of the jets in the background, too. I imagine soaking in the tub to be similar to the way a fetus soaks in the womb, because it’s here that you’re closest to your maker. You’re like a pill dissolving in the chlorinated mouth of God herself. 

It’s why I still tub on a weekly basis. It feels to me one of the quickest ways of connecting with the people closest to you. I’ve brought girlfriends, acquaintances, co-workers, old friends and new friends. Something about a private hot tub encourages vulnerability. Maybe it’s the absence of clothes that does it, or perhaps it’s the mood lighting that’s slightly different in every room. Whether you’re with your friends, business partners or significant others, the tub will bring you closer. 

For those of you searching for a relaxing evening in the company of those you love, Springfield Spas is here; for those of us looking to unwind, as opposed to going to a bar and standing in line, Springfield Spas is here; and for those of you searching for a sliver of inspiration and a dollop of intimacy, Springfield Spas is here. 

Springfield Spas and Tanning is open noon to midnight Sunday through Thursday and noon to 1 am Friday and Saturday at 1100 Main Street, Springfield. or 541-741-1777. Happy hour is 4 pm-6 pm Monday-Thursday and gets you $4 off the total tub price.