For Camden County Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken, the recent unveiling of hotel, conference center and entertainment complex, The Lodge at Old Kinderhook, on Oct. 30 at the Camdenton-based golf resort and community sends a clear message to the rest of the nation - "Lake of the Ozarks is open for business."
"You look at the projects that we have been able to capture, build and open during this economic downturn; they are huge projects. At times when other parts of the state are struggling - and I'm not saying we don't struggle here - there is this constant incentive to continue to move forward," he said.
Within the last four years, Lake of the Ozarks has seen major successful developments bring economic boosts, jobs and tourism opportunities to the region. A few years ago, The Shoppes at Eagles Landing in Lake Ozark opened with CVS Pharmacy and Kohl's, laying groundwork for the opening of Menards and now the Wehrenberg Eagles Landing 8 Cine, which officially opened Friday. Plus, the center's developers recently announced a 6,500-square foot Buffalo Wild Wings opening in spring 2014 next to CVS Pharmacy.
Dicks Sporting Goods also opened Friday, marking the first of two major retail stores to come to the Lakeview Pointe center, which was developed by Dierbergs and opened in April. Bed Bath and Beyond will open in spring 2014. The new Woods Supermarket also opened in spring in Sunrise Beach, and the recent announcement of a major Osage Beach-based waterfront hotel and entertainment complex, Towne Harbour, is hoping to bring numerous major stores and restaurants to the Lake. It is dependent on Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district approval. Now, The Lodge at Old Kinderhook is expected to open in late 2014.
"Everybody wants to be at the Lake, and I think people have a more of that tendency because of the good feeling they get when they are in the area. This is another facility that will bring us forward," Franken said.
Old Kinderhook executive director Bob Renken said The Lodge at Old Kinderhook will have 84 guest rooms, a lobby, lounge and bar, a 250-person conference center, an indoor and outdoor pool, seasonal ice skating rink and expanded recreation, fitness, spa and marina facilities. He also said The Lodge at Old Kinderhook, which will be located adjacent to the existing golf shop, allows for "beautiful views" of Old Kinderhook's Tom Weiskopf signature course and the valley that feeds into the Lake of the Ozarks.
"Our goal is to capture a true lodge feel," he said.
Renken said the idea to build a hotel at Old Kinderhook came from the resort's parent company's management in Dallas, Texas. He said in an economic downturn, his company backed a decision to build more villas and increase its construction program within its community.
"We decided at that point we needed to commit, knowing it may take some time for it to turn around. But over the last couple of years, we have built 32 products and almost $9 million in real estate sales," he said. "Our investors now have the confidence to do this and turn it around ... I said, "We need more property and the critical mass to make this thing click.' (Old Kinderhook owner company management) said, "Why don't you build a hotel?' Three years later, here we are and I have learned a lot."
Renken thanked the staff at Thomas Construction, who is building The Lodge at Old Kinderhook, and the team he has worked with to help conceptualize his vision for the resort into an engineering and construction reality.
Renken said the addition of The Lodge at Old Kinderhook would help create year-round recreational and business opportunities at the resort. Franken and State Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Tuscumbia, agreed with his point.
"I like what Rocky (and Renken) said in that it helps draw people in the shoulder months. Those spring, fall and winter months is where we need to build these type of facilities and what is going to help and help bring those economic conditions in those months up, which helps everyone in the community," Franken said.
For State Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, the Old Kinderhook golf resort and residential community is more than a location within her district. It is her home.
For the last 12 years, Franklin and her husband have frequented its onsite restaurants, attended their spring, fall and holiday festivals open to the Lake area community, and enjoyed its amenities including taking their grandchildren to its swimming pool in the summer. She said she also knew Renken's leadership would make a once struggling resort into a successful community and tourist hotspot, building on that foundation for the future.
"His leadership, the great team he has assembled and the owners of this property are building success on success," Franklin said. "This now provides a place for business conferences, vacations, celebrations and family events, and it is also a place to just have fun with the ice skating rink, expanded services and event opportunities. It is in this (form of) tourism opportunity that we need to continue to support Lake of the Ozarks."