The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is building a mammoth amusement park next door to Foley’s sports complex off the Beach Express.
Called Owa, which means “big water” in the language of the Muskogee Creeks, the development will be centered around a 14-acre lake. The themed amusement park covers 520 acres and will include some 20 rides, a 150-room Marriott TownePlace Suites hotel, restaurants and retail shopping.
One of the highlights is expected to be a roller coaster that will be among the longest in the country.
“They’ve now committed to about a half a billion dollars,” Foley Mayor John Koniar said. “It will be done right.”
At one time the project was known as Blue Collar Country and involved entertainers Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable guy. Koniar said the developer ran out of money and the Poarch Creeks, who had financed the land, ended up owning it.
The lake will be surrounded by dining, shopping and entertainment venues. Rides will range from those attracting thrill seekers to the kiddie level. Together with the adjacent city sport complex, the development will cater to both beach tourists and families traveling with youth sports teams.
“In conjunction with that we are building a 90,000-square-foot events center on our sports complex to be used for indoor sporting events, trade shows, etc.,” Koniar said. The events center will seat 5,000.
Foley’s investment in its 100-acre complex is about $40 million, the mayor said. Sixteen ball fields are already hosting soccer tournaments. The Sun Belt women’s soccer tournament was in town last week and the state boys’ and girls’ tournaments are scheduled for later this month.
Nearly 500 people are already working on construction of the Owa project, Koniar said. “I think the tribe is looking to hire, either directly or indirectly, about 2,500 to 3,000 people over the buildout.”
The theme of Owa is a small Southern town. Phase One is scheduled to open next summer. Future phases include a water park, more hotels, condominiums and a resort-level RV park.
According to Owa’s website, the project is expected to increase tourism spending by 7 percent in South Alabama and increase Baldwin County’s economic output by nearly $250 million.
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