FOLEY, Ala. — “Owa” is the Muskogee Creek word for “big water,” but now it is also the name of South Alabama’s newest coming family attraction. On Wednesday, the Poach Band of Creek Indians announced their intention to develop a new entertainment complex in the city of Foley that will include a themed amusement park, a 150-room Marriott Town Place Suites hotel, and dozens of shops and restaurants.
According to a report from The Pulse, the project is expected to have a massive economic impact on South Alabama. It is estimated to create 3,500 new jobs, attract 1 million new visitors, and increase Baldwin County’s tourist spending by 7 percent, raising the local economic output by $250 million.
“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,” Stephanie A. Bryan, Poarch Creek’s Tribal Chair and CEO, told The Pulse. “Owa is being built in this tradition, and we are very excited to be both neighbors and partners with the City of Foley in bringing economic development to this area.”
Owa will be located near Foley’s brand-new $40 million sports tourism complex, that is slated to open this year. Foley Mayor John Koniar believes that the two attractions, combined with the city’s location, are destined to be successful.
“No place can beat Alabama’s Gulf beaches for their natural beauty,” Koniar said to The Pulse. “We are happy to offer visitors to our area a one stop, family-friendly destination that is near the beach but will provide another option, for not only overnight visitors, but those looking for a day trip getaway.”
The Poarch Creeks have been fairly active in Alabama, both in business and in politics. Before entering the theme park industry, Alabama’s only federally recognized tribe has run the Wind Creek Hospitality resorts in Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery, Muskogee Technology, hotels in Atmore and Huntsville, and a racetrack in Mobile. In sum, the tribe employs more than 3,500 Alabamians.
In 2015, they offered to cover the state’s $250 million General Fund Budget deficit in return for the state granting them exclusive rights to casino gaming in the state. That deal was ultimately not accepted, and the state balanced its budget with a combination of budget cuts and tax increases.
Phase one of the project will open this summer. A secondary phase, which will include a waterpark, additional hotels, a condominium complex and a resort-level RV park, will be completed at a later date.