FOLEY - Hard to believe it’s been a little over two years since OWA opened its park gates, downtown shops, dining experiences, and attractions, but here we are two years later. With the destination investing over $241 million to date and planning to invest an additional $121.3 million within the next 18-months, it’s hard to deny the impact the location has made on the community. There are approximately 275 dedicated people at The Park at OWA, and approximately 750 full time and seasonal employees year-round on the property.
Within a matter of months, OWA has opened its first dark-ride, Mystic Mansion, Legends in Concert, Clash eSports, and Sweet Tooth at OWA. There’s a 150-room hotel onsite. The Park is one of three amusement parks opened within the last decade, and the only one still open. So what’s next, and what is a maybe? Those questions were answered at a recent South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce Leadership Luncheon held on Tue., Oct. 22 when President/CEO of Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority (CIEDA) Cody Williamson spoke about the upcoming Phase II, confirmed happenings, and answered questions about potential future tenants.
In the near future, we can expect to see these places opening their doors: C’est Le Vin Wine Bar and Shop in Nov.; Sushi Co. in Nov.; the long-anticipated Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen in Dec.; and Lucy’s Retired Surfer’s Bar and Grill in spring 2020.
Phase II promises a lot of happenings within the next few years. First off will be the large luxury RV Park, estimated to open in winter 2020. Then will come the indoor waterpark and a 200-room hotel, both estimated for spring 2021.
“The indoor waterpark is going to be about 80,000 square feet and have a retractable roof along with a retractable wall which will lead out into a wave pool. We’ll also have a FlowRider,” said Williamson. “The second hotel will have 200-rooms, a courtyard and a resort pool.”
The hotel and indoor waterpark will be connected, but you won’t have to stay in the hotel to visit the waterpark. Unless you want to take a staycation, says Williamson. The new expansion will add approximately 300 - 400 new jobs to the area, as the waterpark is aiming to run seven days a week.
And this is far from the end, as phases III and IV are already in development, which could include an outdoor waterpark as well as a third resort-style hotel. Williamson says current and future phases are aimed more towards locals, such as leaving the indoor waterpark open all week.
“We’ve talked about bringing in a dog park, a little more greenspace in certain areas, and more music during the nighttime,” he said. “When we originally got the feasibility study, everything was tourists, tourists, tourists; well, we built it and realized that’s not really the case, so everything we’ve done lately has been to continue to push the local market.”
RUMORS AND POSSIBILITIES
A lot of talk happens about what could come to OWA, and Williamson answered questions concerning future possibilities coming to the destination. Topgolf was one area of discussion, and one that has been looked into by OWA as well. Unfortunately after meeting with officials of the sports entertainment company it was determined that OWA doesn’t have enough corporate business presently, but the suggestion hasn’t been completely tabled.
For those looking for a Foley movie theater, Williamson said while it’s not out of the question, OWA would want to bring a theater that offered something different from others in surrounding areas, such as a bigger location or a dining experience. Imax may be too expensive to build solo, but OWA officials are looking into the possibility of building a museum onsite which could potentially include an Imax theater.
“The museum that we talked about doing first is probably going to be related to the Creek Nation,” said Williamson. “We’d love to create an interactive museum. When we started researching museums we discovered the old model was good, but doesn’t work for the younger generations. They want to touch, feel, interact, play- not just read and look. So we’re looking at something that is a little more interactive.”
He stated discussions have been had with Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and that he’d love to bring something similar to the area.
Another big question concerned something that was in the original renderings: an aquarium. Like an Imax, Williamson said aquariums are extremely expensive to build and maintain and that the destination would need a high amount of foot-traffic in order to run one. His team are keeping it on the radar and hope to bring one in the future as visitor numbers rise.
Williamson asked for locals to put in their wants of what they would love to see come to OWA one day, finding crowd excitement over two main suggestions: a high-end taproom featuring a large number of beer choices and pickleball courts. Pickleball courts will be available in the RV Park, but if the interest is there for even more then Williamson says they can be built to accommodate the need.
Also suggested were: a performance facility where dance groups could perform and classes could be taken by all ages; a children’s park divided into two sections, one for younger children and one for older children and teens; and a roller-skating rink, which Williamson says is something that hasn’t been discussed before but is extremely feasible.
“As always, we like to build community and do a lot of things in the community,” he said. “Hopefully you like us here in Foley, because we like being here in Foley.”
For more info on OWA, check out their website at visitowa.com. To learn more about the South Baldwin Chamber and its events, check out www.southbaldwinchamber.com.