By Ken MacLeod
Eddy Gibbs tried to shrug off what he’s accomplished at Shangri-La Resort, but those who appreciate what he’s done for the resort, the area and the state were having none of it.
Gibbs was the featured speaker at a press conference/party Friday evening to commemorate the opening of the 119-room Shangri-La Resort Hotel, a beautiful new addition to the 27-hole golf course and clubhouse which brings Shangri-La back to full resort status. More than $1 million in future business from companies, organizations and individuals has already been booked as far out as 2019.
Gibbs, who spent 40 years in the fencing business, bought the troubled resort six years ago when it had 80 members and eight employees. Today those numbers are 460 members and 200 employees and the growth is expected to continue. Gibbs discussed the possibility of an 18-hole par-3 course and/or an additional nine holes on the championship course as future additions.
For now, most of the major players involved in the rapid construction of the new hotel seemed both thrilled with the product and in need of a few days off. General Manager Jason Sheffield, Vice President of Operations Jon Davidson and Director of Communications and Government Relations Mike Williams all noted in their prepared remarks the intensity of the process of building and opening the resort hotel in just 14 months.
The 400 or so guests at Friday’s event seemed unanimous in their opinion that they had done very well. The hotel includes a large resort pool, hot tubs, fire pits, a 120-seat casual restaurant named Doc’s Bar & Grill which spills to a patio area and has a roof top patio as well, a spa with steam rooms and saunas, indoor pool and more than 8,000 square feet of conference space including a 5,000 square-foot ballroom and smaller breakout rooms.
The hotel is next to the completely rebuilt and refurbished outdoor bar and grill at the Shangri-La Marina, now named Eddy’s.
Chuck Perry, a member of the Oklahoma Tourism Commission and long-time member who has seen Shangri-La go through many incarnations, noted that there’s only been one person who walks on water, but in northeastern Oklahoma, Gibbs comes pretty close. Gibbs has easily poured more than $25 million into rebuilding the course, clubhouse and now hotel as well as developing surrounding houses and condos. As real estate sales are going well and the rooms begin to fill, he’ll be expecting the resort to make money, but there’s no doubt he embarked on much of this because of his love for the place.
Oklahoma Lt. Governor Todd Lamb noted as much during his remarks and discussed how important having Shangri-La back as a full fledged resort would be not only for the area but for the entire state, noting that Oklahoma businesses that wanted an ideal spot for meetings and relaxation were going to Texas or Big Cedar Lodge in Branson.
Lamb compared the rebirth and renewal of Shangri-La to the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, noting that if Gibbs had not been born, the golf course and surrounding lands would now be vacant.
“Eddy, you’re making a difference,” Lamb said.
Gibbs said he bought a house at Shangri-La 16 years previous and watched as the resort fell into disrepair.
“I thought, I know how to cut grass, I’ll just buy this golf course,” Gibbs said jokingly. “We wouldn’t be here if Jason Sheffield hadn’t quit his job in Owasso and moved up here and started this project. We had nothing.”
Gibbs credited superintendent Justin May and director of golf Rob Yanovitch and their teams for making the golf operations such a success that the hotel became an imperative.