Friday, April 27, 2018 | The Pilot Tribune | Read the full story here.
At municipal-owned resort Kings Pointe in Storm Lake, the pedal is to the metal to prepare for the tourism season about to blossom on the lakefront.
Many improvements have been made with a new management company to begin its second summer with the property.
Is there pressure to prep for the busy season about to begin? “Yes, but the pressure is always going to be living up to what we expect of ourselves,” said manager Jason Bjerk, who arrived in December. He promises a “different vibe” for the destination.
“We’re going from par to the next level,” he says.
The lobby has been redone in warm, earthy tones, with more subdued lighting, new flooring, soft leather furnishings, and swivel chairs ideal for taking in the sunsets as seen through the massive plate glass on the lakefront side. Bjerk said that guest comments indicate that visitors are finding the setting more inviting.
In Weigand-Omega’s first year, attention has been largely on the mechanical workings of the complex, which Bjerk said had fallen into disrepair under previous leadership.
In the indoor waterpark, air conditioning and dehumidifier systems had not been working. A new system will maintain the area at a tropical 83 degrees, with water temperature three degrees warmer, and humidity drops from a muggy 95 percent to 42 percent. Replacing those mechanicals required a $150,000 investment, and will also extend the life of the building materials.
Pumps to the water park needed to be replaced, and a computerized towel folder system was added, which will allow several employees to be reassigned for direct guest service – such as more staff on the deck at the outdoor water park. A new stereo system has been installed at the outdoor park, which not only provides music but doubles as a PA system that is an important part of the safety systems.
All of the safety equipment was replaced, including emergency lights, sensors, alarms, security systems and first aid gear.
The guest cabins adjacent to the resort area have received major upgrades and amenities to the tune of $25,000 each for this season. Still to be added are new outdoor furniture and a couple of communal grilling areas. A ribbon cutting for that project will be planned for around Memorial Day.
Attention now turns to the guest rooms in the hotel. Major remodeling is a couple of years off, but the resort is looking into new technology that guests will be wanting, such as door locks that can be controlled from the guest’s cell phones, and TV systems that allow them to use their own accounts for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu instead of having pay-per-view movies. New thermostats are being tested that reset room temperature when a guest checks out, and use movement sensors to save energy when rooms are not occupied, and resets temperature to the guest’s desired level when they enter. Wireless band access has been increased tenfold as the facility works with local company Rebnord. “People want technology, but it has to be intuitive, not complicated,” Bjerk said.
For this season, new video screens now provide such things as the indoor waterpark menu and a waterparks schedule, which allows for instant changes when necessary.
A new website is now live, which will be mobile-friendly and make online booking easier.
Currently, no new attractions are planned for the water parks. That will happen when people get burned out on what the parks offer, Bjerk said.
The resort is attracting visitors from up to about three hours away. “We’re working in the Omaha, Des Moines and Sioux Falls areas,” the manager said of advertising efforts. “Even though people may have similar attractions in their home area, sometimes they just want to get away from home. We can draw from this distance, but Minneapolis is on the verge of being too far.”
A digital marketing firm, Sojourn out of Omaha, is helping the resort to get its name out there in travel circles. Though the facility still utilizes booking engines like Expedia, the company is giving them a better return on its promotion dollars.
This week, work was underway in the outdoor water park, which will soon be filled for the season, to prepare for an onslaught of visitors starting in early June. Around 40 lifeguard will be hired, mostly seasonal high school and college age employees. About 25 more work in the food and beverage department.
After some concern from the city council on the status of the Regatta Grille restaurant, a new chef has led changes, including all-new separate lunch and dinner menus. Foods that had been ordered in frozen are now being prepared fresh on site, including meats prepared using the facility’s own smoker. With 12 taps on hand, craft beer fan Bjerk is eagerly researching many different beers to offer including some from Iowa breweries.
“We need to take the restaurant back to its heyday, for both local residents and hotel guests. We want dishes that are original, in-house, and we will bring back daily specials so people feel like they get to try things they don’t always see in a typical restaurant.”
The resort has software that tracks all orders, to see what customers like and don’t like. (The smoked BLT ranks atop the list.) About $15,000 has been invested in kitchen equipment upgrades.
Bjerk believes the banquet facilities are not used as much as they could be, and plans to work on that, including “pushing the envelope” on services for weddings.
Outside, the fire pit on the lakefront deck is being repaired, and placed on a timer so it will operate every night. Live music will return to the resort. The first performance was in mid April, and almost every weekend during the summer will feature acts, ranging from country to classic rock. Weather allowing, all shows will take place on the outdoor deck, so passers-by can also enjoy the experience.
Planning is already underway for a New Year’s bash.
New people have been brought on board in key guest services positions. “Finding the right people is critical,” the manager said.
An arcade installed when the resort opened a decade ago will soon be removed. The machines had been hard to keep in repair, and the space can be better used as a rental area for children’s parties, the manager says.
The company also manages the golf course and mini golf attraction, as well as handled the senior citizen’s Dinner Date facility in the golf clubhouse. That area also needed attention, and has been given a new color palette, flooring and roof repairs totaling $45,000. The rest of the clubhouse is slated for improvements next year.
“The first year has been about bringing the house back to par. So many things had fallen below what they should be, that we had to prioritize,” resort engineer Rex Rimmer said.
“It’s tough to create a guest experience when the fire alarm keeps going off in the middle of the night,” Bjerk added. “The next 12 months will be all about the guest experience.”
New management had little information to go on, as the previous company took all of its software when it left left spring, with all of the data on past performance. But in management meetings today, talk is never of the past, but looking ahead to the future, resort leaders say
As improvements are being made, Kings Pointe is utilizing local vendors and contractors wherever possible, its leaders say.