BY LEANN DILBECK -
Nabholz Construction is now on-site at the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge and ready to complete the almost $7 million
renovation that according to the most recent projections from Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism [ADPT] is set to re-open in early 2015.
The project has suffered well publicized multiple delays that eventually led to ADPT being summonsed to appear before a joint House and Senate Committee of Governmental Affairs meeting held in Mena on January 30 [SEE VIDEO LINK HERE] along with Wade Abernathy, Inc. [WAI], the contractor who was terminated from the project.
District 20 State Representative Nate Bell, who had requested the meeting, said that he had done so out of concerns from his constituents of the overall economic impact the lodge closure had on the immediate area. At that time, the committee requested that ADPT provide to them the full economic impact. Those numbers were released last week by ADPT Executive Director Richard Davies and show the total impact to be $11,525,067 in lost revenue from the closure.
“The lodge renovation project commenced March 2012 and consequently we looked at calendar year 2011 data for a full year of operation to arrive at estimated expenditures by visitors outside of QWSP. For CY 2011, QWSP visitors spent $1,270,703 on park services and facilities. Based on the Tourism Division’s research statistics indicating overnight travelers spend an average of $184/day and our estimate that day use visitors spend an average of $20/day, we calculated a gross annual expenditure for the visitors at QWSP and their related impact on Arkansas’s economy. Backing out what our visitors spent in CY 2011 at QWSP ($1,270,703) and utilizing the parks visitation numbers for that year (159,791) along with Tourism’s average expenditures for travelers throughout Arkansas, we estimate visitors to QWSP in 2011 spent $5,932,463 outside of the park. Adding the total of in-park and out-of-park expenditures, the total would be $7,203,167. If we use the 1.6 multiplier suggested by the US Travel Association, the economic impact would be $11,525,067,” said Davies in his letter.
The number quantifies what many locally have already felt from the closure of the area’s “crown-jewel” in tourism. The arrival of Nabholz is encouraging to many retail and tourism businesses who now strategize for yet another year in anticipation of the historic lodge’s grand re-opening.