|By Orlan Love, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids,
IowaMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 17, 2008 - Honey Creek State Park Resort on Rathbun Lake, Iowa's first destination resort, will be officially dedicated tonight with Gov. Chet Culver and other state leaders in attendance.
Open since Sept. 19, the 850 acre complex in south-central Iowa has been drawing rave reviews from its guests, according to project manager Liz Christiansen, deputy director of the Department of Natural Resources.
"We're hearing 'great food, great service, beautiful lodge,'" she said.
The resort features 105 guest rooms, a water park, an 18-hole golf course, a 6,500square foot convention center, an RV park and the Rathbun Lakeshore Grille. Unfinished projects include an activities center for environmental programs, a large picnic shelter and 28 rental cabins, expected to be available in the spring.
General Manager Jeremie Slagle said the lodge -- with its prairie view architectural style and its mission-style furnishings -- has pleasantly surprised initial guests with its sophistication.
"It's not logs and deer heads. It has the feel of a big city hotel," he said.
Guests have been especially impressed with the 60-foot vaulted ceiling and the 55-foot fireplace chimney, according to Slagle. The lodge has hosted several corporate groups and conventions and will host its third wedding this weekend, he said.
The resort opened with 120 employees and has hired 30 more -- almost all from the immediate area, said Slagle, an employee of Central Group Companies of St. Cloud, Minn., hired by the DNR to manage the resort and golf course.
"We interviewed 700 applicants for the initial 120 jobs," he said.
Christiansen said the lodge's marina, fish-cleaning station and covered fishing hut enable guests to take advantage of Rathbun's excellent fishing for walleyes, crappies and other species. The resort also features several miles of hiking and biking trails, she said.
Construction of the $62.6 million complex has been funded primarily by $29.8 million in state revenue bonds and interest and a $13.5 million state appropriation for roads, infrastructure and cabins. Revenue generated by the resort is expected to repay the bonds.
Since the 1971 completion of Rathbun Lake, a Corps of Engineers flood-control project on the Chariton River, people have been discussing a destination resort on the 11,000 acre lake.
The DNR bought 345 acres in the 1970s to go with 505 acres of existing Corps land, in anticipation of an 850-acre resort with many of the amenities included in the eventual project.
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