OWA Resort to Make $100 Million Investment
After opening just two years ago on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, OWA has already begun work on Phase II of its development, with sights set on making the 520-acre property a destination resort. The expansion will capitalize on the 6.7 million annual visitors to coastal Alabama.
OWA is owned and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who are descendants of the original Creek Nation. When OWA opened in July 2017, its amusement park featured 21 attractions, in addition to a shopping and dining district, 14-acre lake, and a 150-room Marriott TownePlace Suites hotel on the property. This year, the park opened a dark ride by Sally Corporation called “Mystic Mansion,” and a 400-plus-seat indoor auditorium named OWA Theater was added to its downtown area.
“The master plan created for OWA was never to simply stop construction after Phase I,” says Kristin Hellmich, the resort’s director of marketing and public relations. “In fact, it called for additional water features, hotels, RV accommodations, and more to truly round out the multifaceted resort destination. The $100 million announcement of Phase II—which includes an RV resort, the Gulf Coast’s largest indoor water park, and a resort hotel that includes conference space—allows the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to continue moving forward with the development vision for OWA.”
The indoor water park will be located adjacent to OWA’s existing amusement park to provide guests convenient access to both attractions. The water park continues the resort’s overall theme of “big water,” which is what OWA means in the Muscogee Creek language. The water park is intended to provide the Gulf Coast beach experience to visitors year-round. The overall theme will be a tropical oasis, but she notes that its specific thematic elements have not yet been officially released.
However, she says, “Attractions will include high-speed thrill slides, racers for those guests who are competitive in nature, custom anchor rides, a lazy river, rapid river, kiddie play structure, surf simulator with stadium-style entertainment atmosphere, and quick-service food options, including a tiki bar. The indoor water park will be up to 100,000 square feet when completed.”
The RV park is set to be located on the north side of the resort on a quiet wooded tract of land but will still have easy access to
all of OWA’s entertainment, including the amusement park, downtown shopping and dining district, and the nearby City of Foley’s Sports Tourism Complex. Hellmich notes OWA’s footprint has always been set to encourage pedestrian traffic throughout the resort, so all of its elements have been laid out within walking distance of one another.
Planners developed the RV resort to accommodate 200 pad sites and 10-plus park model units for larger families and groups. The resort will also have a themed clubhouse with amenities that include a swimming pool, dog park, sundry store, and weekly entertainment activities. A shuttle between the RV resort and OWA’s downtown area is also being planned. Hellmich says specific theming elements of the RV accommodations and the hotel have not yet been released to the public.
But she does affirm the resort hotel will be attached to the indoor water park and include 200 rooms, a spacious lobby, retail amenities, custom bar, meeting space, a pool, and a grab-and-go area. Most of the hotel rooms will be equipped with an additional bed or sleeper sofa to accommodate families and groups.
Companies currently working on the Phase II expansion include architect of record Dale Partners Architects P.A. and indoor water park general contractor Rabren General Contractors. OpenAire is handling the indoor water park building structure and retractable roof system, and the aquatic engineer of record on the water park is Cloward H2O. Completion dates currently targeted are the spring of 2020 for the RV park and spring 2021 for the hotel and indoor water park.
Regarding future plans for the OWA resort, Hellmich says, “OWA’s master plan does include the addition of an outdoor water park and an indoor FEC (family entertainment center), as well as multiple hotel properties. All of these exciting additions will be evaluated within the next phase of major investment, which, if OWA’s developments of Phase I and II are any indication, will be coming soon.”