A long-awaited addition to the Gulf Coast is just weeks away from its debut as officials prepare to open the gates at OWA, a new “amusement and entertainment destination” located in South Baldwin County.
The $240 million OWA project — which includes the amusement park, a 150-room Marriott TownePlace Suites hotel, retail and dining spaces, and an artificial lake — is being developed by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
“The amusement park is set to open in late July,” said Kristin Hellmich, OWA’s marketing director. “We have not released an official date but will be doing so in the next two weeks.”
Centered on a 14-acre lake, OWA will feature 21 themed rides including the Rollin’ Thunder roller coaster, as well as a 400-seat amphitheater and Alabama’s first outpost of Wahlburgers, the burger chain owned by actor Mark Wahlberg and his two brothers. Other retail tenants include Sunglass World, Fairhope Soap Company, Alvin’s Island, Hershey’s Ice Cream Shop, and Utopia.
Officials haven’t yet announced ticket pricing or other details.
Just 9 miles from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, OWA is located near the intersection of Foley Beach Express and County Road 20, adjacent to the City of Foley’s $40 million sports tourism complex, which features 16 state-of-the-art outdoor fields and a 90,000 square foot indoor events center.
Future plans call for the expanding the amusement park and adding a waterpark, along with additional hotels, a condominium complex, and a resort-level RV park. When all phases are complete, the development’s total cost is expected to top $500 million.
Officials expect the completed 520-acre development to attract 1 million new visitors to South Alabama and to directly or indirectly generate as many as 3,500 jobs. The project is expected to boost Baldwin County’s economic output by an estimated $244 million. State and local officials are providing OWA with various incentives, including a state investment credit not to exceed $10 million. OWA will also receive a two-cent fee charged on all sales within the surrounding district up to a total of $175 million.
The only federally recognized Indian Tribe in the state of Alabama, The Poarch Band of Creek Indians are descendants of a segment of the original Creek Nation which once covered almost all of Alabama and Georgia. The Poarch Creek Tribal Government and its enterprises employ more than 3,500 residents in Alabama, including at three Wind Creek Hospitality resorts in Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery, Muskogee Technology, hotels in Atmore and Huntsville, and a racetrack in Mobile.