Negotiations continuing for sale of Atwood Lodge

September 14, 2010

The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) is continuing to negotiate with a national resort marketing company for the sale or lease of Atwood Lodge.

 

However, MWCD officials do not expect any action to be taken concerning the lodge during the regularly scheduled meeting of the MWCD Board of Directors to be held this Friday (Sept. 17) at New Philadelphia.

 

The Resorts Experience Company-Atwood (TREC-Atwood) is part of a national resort marketing firm with a track record for turning around financially sagging properties such as Atwood Lodge. TREC-Atwood has spent the past several months talking with other potentially interested partners as part of a concept to change the marketing strategy and develop new services and amenities in and around the 104-room lodge and meeting center owned by the MWCD. The MWCD Board of Directors has announced that it will close the lodge located in Carroll County on Oct. 4 if a buyer or some other solution cannot be identified.

 

A special meeting of the Board of Directors probably will be scheduled to deal solely with the lodge’s future if a proposal is presented to the MWCD Board for consideration, said John M. Hoopingarner, MWCD executive director/secretary.

 

In late July, the Board agreed to continue negotiations with TREC-Atwood – which was formed as a division of Resorts and Clubs Inc. of Michigan – for the potential sale or lease of the Atwood property and operations. TREC-Atwood is led by John Meeske, the president of Resorts and Clubs Inc., who has had success in repositioning and improving struggling resorts.

 

“We have been in constant communication with Mr. Meeske and his key staff members,” Hoopingarner said. “We are well aware that they have been very busy and remain enthusiastic about the potential for a solid future at Atwood Lodge. However, we also must prepare for the potential that Atwood Lodge will close as scheduled on Oct. 4.”

 

MWCD Board members previously approved action that was completed recently to comply with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN Act) by written notification to employees of Atwood Lodge about the official projected closing date. The operation currently has about 20 full-time and dozens of part-time employees that varies in size depending on the time of year and need. Prospera Hospitality of Pittsburgh operates the Lodge and employs the staff through a management contract with MWCD.

 

The 45-year-old lodge operation has suffered from increasing deficits that exceeded $1 million alone in 2009, and historically has not been a source of profits for the MWCD, losing an average of more than $159,000 per year since it opened.

 

Meeske has said that his business would not operate Atwood Lodge exclusively on its own and it probably would not be a traditional hotel/resort operation. Instead, he has said he hopes to identify and attract potential businesses and services to be a part of the operation in and around the lodge through performance agreements. He has said that educational and wellness programs could be part of the future of Atwood Lodge, and MWCD Board members previously have met in executive session with officials from Kent State University Tuscarawas and LifeCenter Plus at Hudson in Summit County.

 

The lodge is located off Rt. 542 between Sherrodsville and Dellroy in Carroll County and includes the main hotel, dining room and conference center, two golf courses (an 18-hole regulation course and a lighted, nine-hole, par-3 course), 17 vacation cabins and indoor and outdoor swimming pools, along with other amenities.

 

Atwood Lodge has an economic impact on the Carroll County community of an estimated $7 million annually, according to local officials.

 

The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses in the Muskingum River Basin, the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio. Since their construction, the reservoirs (including Atwood Lake) and dams in the MWCD region have been credited for saving more than $7 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to the federal government.

 

For more information about the MWCD, visit www.mwcd.org.

 

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