FOLEY, Ala. (AP) - An Indian tribe best known for its Alabama casinos is opening the largest amusement park on the northern Gulf Coast as it diversifies its businesses from gambling into family entertainment.
The Park at OWA , with a roller coast and 20 other rides plus shopping, restaurants, a hotel and other amenities spread over 520 acres, is scheduled to open Friday just a few miles north of Alabama’s main tourist beaches of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.
Owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, OWA’s first two phases cost $241 million, the tribe said. The total investment is supposed to more than double in later phases as additional hotels, condominiums, a water park and RV resort are added.
A family attraction is a departure for the Poarch Creeks, who have casinos in the Alabama cities of Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka but did not include gambling in the current planning for OWA, a Muscogee Creek word that means “big water.”
“As a tribe, we have worked hard to ensure that our businesses bring revenue and jobs into the state and add to the quality of life in the rural communities where they are located,” the tribe’s chief executive, Stephanie A. Bryan, said in a statement announcing the park last fall.
Area officials are happy to have a big, new attraction in a coastal area that lives off tourist dollars. The development is adjacent to a new, city-owned sports complex that will help provide a near-constant flow of traffic near the site.
“That is sort of a no-brainer on the positivity of it,” Foley Mayor John Koniar told al.com. “OWA is going to be very big for the whole area.”
Water parks and small amusement attractions are common along the northern coast, but the region hasn’t had a major amusement park since Hurricane Katrina swamped the now-abandoned Six Flags New Orleans in 2005.
Alabama Splash Adventure, located in metro Birmingham, is about 270 miles north, and Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia, is 300 miles away.
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