By Nancy Allen
A study to determine the economic feasibility of building a 100-room lodge on Grand Lake St. Marys has advised against the project at this time.
The study, the third phase of a multi-year process, was coordinated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and carried out by consultants from Indianapolis-based Leon Younger & Pros and Toledo-based The Collaborative Inc. Findings were presented during a public meeting Thursday at Wright State University-Lake Campus.
The Lake Development Corporation, a non-profit group that promotes economic development in the region, first suggested building a lodge on the lake in 1999 for visitors to the lake who don't want to stay in hotels or camp. The Lake Campus, which owns a large amount of land around the campus and near the lake, joined the effort as a potential lodge development partner.
Though the study recommended against a lodge, it gave local officials information on how to make the area more attractive in the future for either a lodge resort or some other sort of accommodations, said Lake Campus Assistant Dean Greg Schumm.
"This not a dead issue. The study showed it's not feasible at this time, but things can change," Schumm said. "But there's got to be other reasons for people to come here." Consultant Leon Younger said the lodge itself cannot be the only draw and said area officials have to work to promote the area as a region and bring in anchor attractions such as retail shopping and entertainment to make the area a more desirable destination, an assertion echoed by state officials.
"A resort just can't make it on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It has to do well Monday through Thursday, said Dave Stites with ODNR. "You have to create a reason for longer stays. You need to create a destination area. The resort is not all of it."
The study, which included a market, competition and revenue assessment, found that a 100-room resort lodge would be beneficial during the peak season months, when hotels in Mercer and Auglaize counties showed high occupancy rates, but would be a detriment during the fringe and off-season months, when local occupancy rates dip dramatically.
Recommendations included acquiring more land base, either state- or privately-owned, upon which to site a lodge, developing partnerships with local business and others to fill rooms, increase the number of events in the region, both counties work together, market the region to local businesses, educate the public about the region and bring in more recreational amenities.
Consultant Phillip Enderle said there is great opportunity for community leaders to work to position the region for the future.
"By no means does this report mean the end," Enderle said. "It's all in your hands how you control the future."
The study was funded through $150,000 in state line item appropriations and $30,000 from the Lake Campus.
The study evaluated several factors, including travel and tourism data, demographics, population projections, highway access, potential customers and residential and commercial growth in the area.