Call it the newest "wow" factor on Grand Lake. The long-awaited Shangri-La Resort on Monkey Island is nearing completion.
Designed, in John Davidson, vice president for operations words, to provide guests, and area residents alike, with a "wow" as they approach the facility, the 120-room resort opened for its first guests last week.
"We want people to come around the curve and say wow," Davidson said, as he presented the new facility during Wednesday's Grove Rotary Club meeting.
The facility, which Davidson said, is orientated on the island to "take advantage of natural shade" as well as the Grand Lake shorelines, is 90 percent complete.
Davidson said even as hotel staff prepared for the first gala of the season - last weekend's Home of Hope fundraiser - team members were "literally vacuuming up behind contractors."
Davidson said the staff, led by hotel manager Michael Collins, managed to pull off the almost-capacity level event, with a "Wizard of Oz" type of skill.
"You just didn't want to look behind the curtain," Davidson joked, saying he was proud of how the staff met the challenge on opening weekend.
Shangri-La Resort, located on Monkey Island, features 120 non-smoking rooms and suites, an outdoor resort pool, children's splash pad, a 27-hole golf course, and 8,000 feet of flexible meeting space - which includes a ballroom that can seat 300.
Multiple dining options, under the direction of Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverages Michael Bujold, exist including the new Eddy's Lakeside Bar, the Doc's Bar and Grill, the Summit Restaurant and Buffalo Bar.
The hotel restaurant is slated to open, to guests and the general public, by the weekend. Davidson said it will feature a "casual" meal setting, with food service throughout the day and into the evening. A rooftop patio, which overlooks the resort pool is undergoing the finishing touches as well.
Eddy's Lakeside Bar, which sits where the former Island Joe's once stood, is complete and open to the public. Davidson said he anticipates live music will take place at the bar most weekends, with the first band kicking off things during the June 23 grand opening celebration.
Davidson said staff had to "corner" owner Eddy Gibbs, to allow the new bar to feature his moniker.
At the latest count, the facility has 209 employees on the payroll - with more than 130 joining the staff in the past 90 days.
"Everything happened very fast," Davidson said, since the groundbreaking ceremony in April 2016. "We have a lot of great people and a great leadership team."
Davidson said staff have begun a soft-marketing campaign, using primarily social media, to entice people from Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas to visit the resort.
He said staff are in the process of booking events into 2025, as travel planners learn of the resort's resurgence.
Still being completed is a spa, which will feature a fitness center, manicures/pedicures, massages, hydra-therapy rooms, sauna, a relaxation room and an indoor pool. The spa will be open to the general public, as well as club members and hotel guests.
At least 14 courtesy dock slips are available, for daytime guests arriving by boat. Jason Sheffield, general manager, said at least 27 slips are also available in the nearby marina, which can be used for long-term guests as well as those coming for the day.
Sheffield said he had an ah-ha moment earlier this week, as guests and club members were enjoying the facility and the pool was in use by the children taking part in the junior golf camp.
"We are making this a destination resort again," Sheffield said. "It's wonderful."
A look ahead
Davidson said while the outdoor activities are limited to the pool for now, additional facilities - including a sand volleyball court, are in the works.
During peak demand times, Davidson said the rooms will range in price from $249 a night to $399, depending upon location within the facility.
Sheffield anticipates up to 50,000 guests will stay at Shangri-La each year, when it becomes fully operational. He said he is working with county and state officials to address the roadway leading from Littlefield's Corner to the Resort.
He said Gibbs has requested staff consider adding a Par 3 Golf Course, which Sheffield said is a "solid maybe" in its planning stages.