Friday, July 8, 2011

So, do you want to buy Atwood Lodge?

BLOGGER'S NOTE: This was originally published by the Bargain Hunter, but only online. I didn't make the cut for the print edition. Que sera, sera.

News that the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District plans to raze Atwood Lake Resort and Conference Center shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

Its history is awash in red ink, bad decisions, unfavorable market conditions and a changing culture. For years, the MWCD has propped up the lodge with money that could have been used elsewhere in the 18-county district and therein lies the issue with three of the five board members who voted to finally end the lodge’s existence.

William P. Boyle Jr. of Richland County, Richard J. Pryce of Stark County and Steve Kokovich of Muskingum County remained unconvinced there was a future for the 104-room hotel that dates to 1965.

Harry C. Horstman of Harrison County and David L. Parham of Carroll County voted against razing the lodge, holding out hope there’d be a solution sooner rather than later.

The lodge sits on a hilltop overlooking Atwood Lake. The view is magnificent. The lodge offered indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, a lighted Par 3 golf course, an 18-hole golf course and walking trails.

Unfortunately, it did not offer easy access to the waterfront, a mistake made when the lodge was located on the hillside rather than at water’s edge. Nonetheless, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the lodge was a hustling, bustling place – a destination in the early days.

But what happened since? Amish Country, just a few miles to the west, exploded in popularity. High-end hotels were built in Holmes and Wayne counties that attracted visitors who otherwise might have chosen Atwood Lodge in the autumn or spring.

Families preferred the kid-friendly indoor water parks, such as Kalahari, Great Wolf Lodge and other similar properties near Sandusky. Men preferred hooking up with buddies on southern golf courses. Women headed to spas and boutique hotels near big cities and prime shopping spots.

Life changed a lot since 1965. The lodge did not.

So, with the property losing an estimated $1 million a year, the plug was pulled.

Contrary to popular belief, or at least the beliefs contained in posted online comments, there was no conspiracy.

The MWCD reached the decision more than a year ago to sell the property to whoever thought they could make a go of it. It gave time to an independent developer to come up with a plan and financing in order to save the place. He couldn’t.

Kent State-Tuscarawas explored the possibility of using the lodge as an educational extension of its role in the Tuscarawas Valley. But the numbers wouldn’t work.

The bottom line is the lodge had a horrible 30-percent occupancy rate. It was virtually empty from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

And to compete with modern hotels and resorts, it needed a massive overhaul, including all the technological advances that patrons expect throughout the property.

Most of all, it needed an entity with deep pockets, good cash flow and an enviable credit line to take control.

It was not to be.

So, Atwood Lodge, which was never an architectural gem, is destined to join the ranks of properties such as the Richfield Coliseum, Three Rivers Stadium, Euclid Beach Park (a personal favorite), and other venues and destinations that remain in our hearts and memories, but which have exhausted their usefulness.

Que sera, sera, Atwood Lodge. You had a nice run.

Dick Farrell is a contributor to the Bargain Hunter. You can access this column at You can read his blog at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter (dfarrell_dover).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you brought some sane and logical analysis to the MWCD decision on the Atwood Resort. The nattering nabobs of negativism that populate the underside of rocks around are an offense to my senses. This week their demons are the members of the MWCD Board. Where have the critics been for the past several years when the stage was set for this ultimate decision? Probably their attention has been focused on gutting school districts, administrators and teachers. After hacking them to shreds they turn on each other like hyenas on the carcass of a gazelle.

I'm sorry for the jobs lost, the tax revenues that won't be collected, and for the loss of a facility that I have to admit I spent one night in despite living in New Phila for 38 years.

Your pal,