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After an Updated Market Study, Developers Now Planning a $40 million
 150-room Hotel with a Spa and Resort Quality Facilities at
 Oklahoma's Lake Murray State Park.
By Julie Bisbee, The OklahomanMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sep. 21, 2007 --ARDMORE -- A proposed development at Lake Murray State Park just got a little bit bigger.

A recent market study showed a higher demand for a resort than originally estimated and now developers are changing their plans to meet the need.

The $24 million project has turned into a $40 million project that will include a 150-room luxury hotel and resort, Mita Bates, vice president of the Ardmore Tourism Authority told members of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation commission.

"There's a higher demand than we anticipated," Bates said.

Earlier this year, the tourism commission approved a plan by the Ardmore Tourism Authority to sublease to a private developer who planed to pour $24 million into building a new 100- to 150-room hotel.

The plan also called for renovations of the existing cabins and lodge along the lake. The state will continue to own the land, but lease it to the Ardmore Tourism Authority, an entity associated with the Ardmore Development Authority.

After an updated market study, the development has expanded to a 150-room hotel with a spa and resort quality facilities.

"It's just in tune with what's going on right now in the hospitality business," Bates said. "People are taking more trips, but shorter in duration."

'People want to leave Dallas'
Lake Murray's location makes it an ideal getaway spot for nearly 8 million people who live within in 100 miles of the park, Bates said. There are nearly 1.2 million people in the Oklahoma City area and about 7 million in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Developers are hoping to maximize on Texas tourism dollars.

"We talked with a developer who was going to do a resort just outside Dallas, but what he found out is that people want to leave Dallas," Bates said. "Lake Murray is two hours away. It's a perfect getaway location."

Timeline

-- The existing state park and lodge will remain open while construction is done on a new hotel, Bates said.

-- Once the work is done, probably in spring 2009, the old lodge and cabins will be closed and renovated, while the new hotel is open.

-- The resort could be complete by 2010 or early 2011, Bates said.

'Good lesson with Lake Texoma'
The plan to develop the state park on Lake Murray is different from a private development planned for Lake Texoma. In the case of Lake Texoma, the state sold the land to Pointe Vista LLC, a private development group comprising top executives from Oklahoma-based Chaparral Energy and Chesapeake Energy Corp.

In the development plan, the state park lodge and cabins were closed late last year, but development remains stalled because the development group has not been able to close on the land.

Also, a reversionary clause in a lease gives the land on the south edge of Lake Texoma back to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Congress must approve changes to that lease.

"We all learned a good lesson with Lake Texoma and the importance of lodges," Bates said.

"At Lake Murray, there will always be lodging available."

Lodging prices

-- The resort will include lodging for a variety of price ranges. The existing state park lodge and cabins will continue to be a mid-priced lodging option for families and groups, Bates said.

-- The new hotel will be higher-end and will include a spa and fine dining, Bates said.

-- "We want to keep it affordable for groups that have historically used the facility like church groups or family reunions," Bates said. "There's not just going to be something for the guy with a lot of money. There will also be something for the market that is currently served."

-----

To see more of The Oklahoman, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.newsok.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Oklahoman

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