The idea of building a resort at Clinton Lake has been around for awhile, maybe the time finally is right for this development.
For one thing, the project has a strong champion in Robin Jennison, who heads the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Jennison reportedly is negotiating a 50-year lease with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to accommodate a 175-room hotel inside Clinton Lake State Park, which is located on the north side of the lake, just west of Lawrence. On Tuesday, he told the Journal-World that he already had visited with four developers who were interested in taking on the park project. The state has set a July 17 deadline for developers to submit proposals.
A feasibility study prepared by a national hotel consulting firm presents an attractive vision for a destination resort at Clinton Lake. In addition to the hotel, the study envisions a conference center with a 6,500-square-foot ballroom and about 9,000 square feet of additional meeting space, three restaurants ranging from full-service to casual, a spa, indoor and outdoor pools and facilities for water sports and other recreation activities, including hiking, sailing and access to the nearby city-owned Eagle Bend Golf Course.
The goal is to create an attractive venue for a variety of events, ranging from corporate retreats to weddings and family reunions. State officials hope the resort would draw visitors from a multi-state region, but, if done right, it also could be a perfect spot for many local and Kansas University-related events or even individuals who just want to enjoy a meal at a lakeside setting.
The idea of a resort at Clinton Lake has been around ever since the gates were closed on Clinton Dam in the late 1970s. Discussions got more serious in 2001, but prospective developers couldn’t attract the kind of local financial support they needed to get the project off the ground.
Extending city water and sewer service to the site was, and still is, a key factor. In 2001, extending city utilities to the site was estimated to cost $1.2 million. Construction costs have risen over the last decade, but city utility services have continued to march westward toward the lake so the distance an extension would have to cover has shrunk. Jennison also hinted that the state might be willing to offer some financial incentives to help support the project.
The city currently is financially extended in many directions, but a resort at Clinton Lake is a good project that deserves city support. City officials should work closely with state officials to see how they can help make the resort a reality.