If developers have their way, a 90-acre resort promoting “all things Oregon” will be along the east side of Interstate 5 between the two Sutherlin exits and Highway 99.
According to Francine Hatton, director of marketing for Oregon Only, the resort will offer opportunities for leisure, tourism and commerce with a planned hotel, convention center, amusement park, shopping village, interpretive museum and outdoor recreation area. Total cost for the project is expected to be $68 million.
Hatton declined to say which parcels of land are included in that area.
Oregon Only CEO Bruce Brunette said his company is still in the process of buying the land for the project, which includes city, county and private parcels of land.
Hatton said the resort is meant to promote Oregon-based products, companies and brands, and showcase the history of Oregon’s major industries, like the wood products industry.
If all goes according to plan, Brunette said the project will bring about 100 to 150 temporary construction jobs, and 100 to 150 service industry jobs, with the company hoping to hire mostly local people.
Brunette, who owned Lion’s Head Development, Pleasure Pools Construction and Fitness Aquatics, said he has built more than 100 water parks — mostly in Washington — and he said they are still in operation today.
Brunette said Sutherlin City Manager Jerry Gillham had contacted him four years ago about building a water park in Sutherlin, but Brunette told him the project would have to incorporate more than just a water park to be successful in rural Southern Oregon.
Gillham did not return calls for comment.
So for the last few years, Brunette said Sutherlin and Oregon Only and Sutherlin officials been developing the concept into a bigger project that includes all the aspects of the resort with a focus on sharing Oregon’s history. Brunette said he’s been coordinating with Oregon-based businesses and attending conventions for the agricultural and timber industries to hone in the concept.
Once the land is purchased, Brunette said it will plan to go through the entitlement, design and mitigation phase, working with government agencies, with hopes of breaking ground in 2021. Brunette said the goal is to have most of the resort operational within 12 months of breaking ground.
Hatton said the resort will have a positive impact on the local area.
“Exclusively utilizing the people and products of Oregon through the entirety of the project, we will employ and resource locally within Oregon, from design and planning to construction and operations,” Hatton said.
Hatton said the resort will have easy access on-and-off the freeway for access by tourists.
“We selected Sutherlin as a major area for local economic improvement and it’s right along I-5 so it’s a great destination,” Hatton said. She said the location makes it easy for tourists to visit local businesses and participate in local outdoor recreation activities. Sutherlin Mayor Todd McKnight said the resort will stimulate the economy of not only Sutherlin, but Douglas County as a whole.
“It will be a huge shot in the arm for our economy and put Sutherlin on the map,” McKnight said.
The company’s chief operating officer, Michael Sullivan, a co-founder and former president of the Umpqua Fisherman’s Association, hails from Douglas County while others involved in Oregon Only are from different parts of the state.
“The vision is unique and I’m excited about all aspects of the project,” McKnight said.
Brunette said Oregon Only has also been working with the Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Transportation, Corps of Engineers, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of State Lands and more to go through the process and make sure the company is following state and federal laws.
“We’re incorporating wetlands into the project because wetlands are a key component to Oregon,” he said. He said the county-owned pond that Georgia Pacific had previously used as a logging pond will be involved in the project, and the government agencies have found no contaminants in the pond.
“There are some challenges in Sutherlin, it’s an economically-depressed area,” Brunette said. Despite that, he remains optimistic because of studies from tourism organizations. He said studies show hotels in Sutherlin and Roseburg have a 70 percent occupancy rate on average, and Sutherlin has an average of 43,000 cars go by each day.
The numbers are even higher in the summer months, he said, so the main drivers of the resort will be summer traffic or conventions during the off season.