Photo: Mike Williams Director of Communications and Governmental Relations, Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, Shangri-La Executive Chairman Jason Sheffield, owner Eddy Gibbs and CEO Barry Willingham.
By Ken MacLeod
Before a packed room of members, dignitaries, politicians and media, Shangri-La owner Eddy Gibbs and his top staff today announced details about and had an official ground breaking ceremony for the new Shangri-La Activity Park.
“It’s going to be game changer for us,” said Shangri-La Executive Chairman Jason Sheffield, who presided over his third groundbreaking since teaming up with Gibbs in 2010. The first in 2010 was to announce the total rebuild of the golf course and the building of a 14,000-square foot clubhouse, the second in 2016 to announce the building of the Shangri-La Resort Hotel and Conference Center.
“Before in the winter or early spring or during a bad weather day, there wasn’t enough to do,” Sheffield said. “That’s not going to be the case any longer.”
Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, a native of the area, was the featured speaker and spoke glowingly about the project and what it will mean for the continued development of the resort and the Grand Lake area.
The Activity Park will feature an 11,000-square foot indoor facility featuring bowling lanes, golf simulators, shooting simulators, pop-a-shot basketball, pool and ping pong, a 40-seat theater for movies or video conferencing, a coffee bar and in indoor-outdoor bar and lounge.
Outside will be tennis courts, pickleball courts, sand volleyball, basketball and a mini-Fenway Park for whiffle ball games, an idea Sheffield nicked when he saw a similar one at Bluejack National in Houston.
Also included will be a lawn for art fairs or other events and a fishing pond with a replica anchor of the ones used by the U.S.S. Oklahoma which was sunk at Pearl Harbor with 429 sailors and marines perishing. The anchor weighs 22,000 pounds.
“When Eddie sees something he really likes, he says “wow,” said Shangri-La President and CEO Barry Willingham. “We’re delivering wow. That’s what the entire journey has been about.”
When Gibbs purchased the failing facility it had 84 members and a handful of employees. Those numbers are now 522 members and 260 employees. Between the golf course, clubhouse, hotel and now activity park the former owner of Ameristar Fence has invested tens of millions into turning Shangri-La into one of the nation’s top resorts.
Construction will begin immediately on the outdoor facilities with hope of being finished in late summer. The building should be complete by early spring of 2021. Tulsa-based contractor Dale Forrest, owner of United Golf, will be doing much of the work on the outdoor facilities.
“The wow factor is here Eddie and I sing your praises in all 77 counties of the state,” Pinnell said in his remarks. “When we see the first class experience you get here, I hope we start doing that across our state. When we expect more than just OK, we change the perception of this state, we change the citizen’s perception of the state and we can be great. We can be great, but have to have the innovators like Eddie and others across the state. I cannot tell you how proud I am to be the first Lieutenant Governor from northeast Oklahoma.”
Pinnell, who helped found the new Oklahoma Fishing Trail and is in charge of the Oklahoma Tourism Department, pointed out that tourism in Oklahoma is a 700 million dollar industry, the state’s third largest, and growing.
“We are well on our way to being a billion dollar state,” he said. “If you want to see American, you’ve got to see Oklahoma and you’ve got to see Shangri-La. That American experience is what we’re selling across the state. That sells. Japanese, Australians, Czech Republic, they’re all flooding here to get an authentic American experience.”