The Poarch Band of Creek Indians on Wednesday unveiled detailed plans for a new “first-class, family-friendly tourist destination” currently under construction near South Alabama’s popular beaches.
The complex — called “Owa,” which means “big water” in the Muskogee Creek language — will feature a 14-acre lake at its center, surrounded by a themed amusement park, a 150-room Marriott Town Place Suites hotel, and a wide selection of restaurant and shopping opportunities.
When completed, the Owa development is expected to attract 1 million new visitors to South Alabama and will directly or indirectly generate close to 3,500 jobs. A projected 7 percent increase in tourist spending would raise Baldwin County’s economic output by close to $250 million.
“As a Tribe, we have worked hard to ensure that our businesses bring revenue and jobs into the state and add to the quality of life in the rural communities where they are located,” said Stephanie A. Bryan, Poarch Creek’s Tribal Chair and CEO. “Owa is being built in this tradition, and we are very excited to be both neighbors and partners with the City of Foley in bringing economic development to this area.”
The 520-acre Owa development is 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 that is slated to open in the summer of 2017. The two projects will provide a seamless experience for “sport families” who travel to the area specifically for tournaments, but who will avail themselves of opportunities offered by Owa to entertain the entire family.
“For every visitor, Owa will provide a top-notch experience,” said Tim Martin, President of Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority, the Tribe’s business entity charged with developing the property. “It is an added benefit that families who come to Foley for sporting events will also have all of Owa’s offerings available to them. We believe that this is a winning combination that will have families coming back to Alabama for years to come.”
The Owa complex will be located just off the Foley Beach Express and County Road 20, just 9 miles from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
“No place can beat Alabama’s Gulf beaches for their natural beauty,” said Foley Mayor John Koniar. “We are happy to offer visitors to our area a one stop, family-friendly destination that is near the beach but will provide another option, for not only overnight visitors, but those looking for a day trip getaway.”
Owa’s design celebrates its rural roots, officials said. The complex will have the feel of a small Southern town that evolves through time with distinct districts such as the Warehouse District, Downtown District, and Amusement Park.
Phase One of the project, which includes the 150-room hotel, retail and dining spaces, amusement park and lake will open Summer 2017. Future plans call for a waterpark, additional hotels, a condominium complex and a resort-level RV park. When complete, total investment in the development is expected to top $500 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.