Launch - Park and Ride - March 2018

When the park at OWA opened July 21, 2017, it introduced residents of Foley, Alabama to 21 rides, including the "Rollin' Thunder" roller coaster. (Credit: PARK AT OWA)

New Destination Resort Evolves on U.S. Gulf Coast

by Keith Miller

Located nine miles from the Gulf of Mexico in Foley, Alabama, a new resort called OWA gives residents along the U.S. Gulf Coast a park and entertainment district to call their own, reflecting the region they call home. 

“OWA was designed to feel like a small town evolving through time,” says Kristin Hellmich, OWA director of marketing and public relations. “With distinct districts punctuating the landscaped grounds, OWA captures the best of old-time Southern vacationing coupled with the amenities of today.”

The turn-of-the-century feel is evident in the design and structures at the park, while OWA, meaning “big water” in the Muskogee Creek language, refers to the 14-acre lake at the center of the destination. 

The unique moniker reflects OWA’s development and construction by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the only Native American tribe in Alabama recognized by the United States government. 

Debuting July 21, 2017, The Park at OWA features 21 rides, all provided by Zamperla. The “Rollin’ Thunder” roller coaster quickly became the park’s signature attraction. The 2,234-foot-long steel coaster reaches 56 mph after dropping down a 115-foot-tall vertical lift hill and features four inversions. Its three trains sport a unique seating configuration that holds nine riders at a time.


"Crazy Mouse" gives riders a 360-degree view of the parkas mice-themed cars spin around the track. (Credit: PARK AT OWA)

The Park at OWA classifies six other attractions as thrill rides, including the “Freedom Flyer” swing ride that takes guests about 100 feet into the air; “Wave Rider,” a circular, spinning platform that moves back and forth along a halfpipe track; and “Twister,” which features a large pendulum arm with a passenger disk at one end that spins 360 degrees while the pendulum swings. 

The Park at OWA also offers more than a half-dozen family attractions, including a “Flying Carousel,” a colorful “AeroZoom” hang-gliding ride, the “Southern Express” roller coaster, and a classic teacups ride. Guests at least 42 inches tall can ride all of them.

The Park at OWA joins a 400-seat amphitheater situated on the lake, which will feature boat rides and a fountain show. Both are part of the larger 520-acre OWA resort, opening in stages over the next several years. 

An area named Downtown District offers several shops and restaurants, including a sports restaurant and arcade, a vintage Hershey’s Ice Cream Parlor, and the celebrity-owned Wahlburgers hamburger restaurant, created by Executive Chef Paul Wahlberg and his actor/entertainer brothers, Mark and Donnie Wahlberg. 

Other elements of OWA already open include an on-site Marriott TownePlace Suites with 150 rooms—the first of a planned five property hotels. On the drawing board: a state-of-the-art 90,000-square-foot events center and 16 outdoor sports fields. The latter two venues are being created through a partnership with the City of Foley. 

Construction will begin soon on a resort-level condominium project with conference space, an outdoor water park, and a luxury RV resort. All are scheduled for completion in three to five years.

OWA’s property was initially developed as the Blue Collar Country theme park by American comedians Bill Engvall, Jeff Foxworthy, and Larry the Cable Guy, who make up the Blue Collar Comedy team. When the project didn’t proceed as envisioned, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians stepped in.

The tribe has invested in numerous developments in Florida and Alabama, some involving tourism and entertainment. 

The tribe’s investment in phases I and II of the OWA project totals $241 million and will eventually exceed $500 million for all phases. Hellmich says the tribe conferred with several attractions-industry specialists when planning and building OWA, including Economic Consulting Services and Integrated Insight for feasibility studies, PGAV Destinations for master planning, and ProFun Management Group for theme park assistance.

Kiddie Rides

In addition to its seven thrill rides and eight family rides, The Park at OWA features a host of kiddie rides, including:

  • Flying Aces,” which carries kids up, down, and round and round on vintage biplanes
  • Gully Washer,” a kid-friendly free-fall ride that features sudden drops, stops, and bounces
  • Happy Haulers,” a vintage-style truck ride around an old-fashioned track
  • Leap Frog,” which bounces children on the backs of multicolored frogs
  • Swingin’ Fun,” a large mechanical swing set that doesn’t require someone to push it
  • Zip Zap Race,” which lets kids take the wheel of hot-rod racers