Gulf Adventure Center, a popular attraction at Alabama’s Gulf State Park, could close by October after Alabama state officials told owners that their contract would not be renewed.
J.T. Lemons, a founding partner and the concessionaire of Gulf Adventure Center, was granted a contract in 2012 by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, or ADCNR, to build and operate Gulf Adventure Center, a 14-acre, 7-tower zipline course and outdoor adventure center within Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores.
But owners recently received notice from ADCNR that their four-year contract will not be renewed in October. No reason was given for the non-renewal, they said.
Opened in March 2013, Gulf Adventure Center has since become one of the top attractions on the Alabama Gulf Coast. The adventure center contributes more than $150,000 in sales tax annually, employs seven full-time and 48 part-time employees, and has provided revenues in excess of $300,000 to the Gulf State Park, company officials said.
The non-renewal notice came as a shock to Gulf Adventure Center’s Managing Partner Tom Schlinkert, who said there had been no indication ever given by ADCNR of any dissatisfaction. After the initial notice was received, Schlinkert says he met with ADCNR officials at their headquarters in Montgomery to discuss the contract. During that meeting, ADCNR officials indicated they were not comfortable with another 4-year term and suggested that Schlinkert submit a year-to-year option for consideration.
Schlinkert presented a year-to-year contract proposal to ADCNR on August 4. He received notice on August 9 that the proposal was not accepted. Once again, no reason was given for its denial, Schlinkert said.
“We’ve built a great asset for the Alabama Gulf Coast tourism industry in the past four years, and we have plans to expand our operations, adding more activities and amenities,” said Schlinkert. “We’ve been good stewards of the natural resources at Gulf State Park and would like to continue to enhance awareness and appreciation for the park’s natural beauty and native wildlife.”
The closure of the adventure center and the loss of its 55 jobs would mean an estimated economic loss of approximately $850,000, Schlinkert said. The adventure center is continuing to “make every effort” to come to a mutual agreement with ADCNR on a contract, he added.
“After a great 4-year relationship with ADCNR, its Commissioner and staff, it seems that the decision on this forced closure has been made at some other level of state government,” Schlinkert said.