By Max Bomber
INDIANAPOLIS – Potato Creek could be the first Indiana State Park in nearly 80 years to get a new inn.
Gov. Mike Pence has proposed building a $25 million lodge to be called the Bicentennial Inn at the property in North Liberty. It will be named for Indiana’s 200th birthday coming up in 2016.
But even though the lodge was authorized in the state budget that becomes law July 1, it’s not yet clear how the project will be financed.
“A lot is to be determined on the funding for it,” Department of Natural Resources spokesman Phil Bloom. “We are still in the preliminary stage.”
In fact, there’s no timeline for construction and the Pence administration is still determining how to pay for it.
There are two proposals on how to finance the project. The state budget authorizes a public-private partnership that would let a private vendor build the lodge and then collect or share in the revenue.
The Turkey Run Inn is one of seven lodges located in Indiana state parks. An eighth inn is planned for Potato Creek State Park.
Pence has also proposed leasing some of the state’s 150 cell towers to private firms. The towers are currently used by the state to support public safety and emergency communications, although not all are in use or are only partially in use. Making the space or towers available to private vendors
When the project is constructed, DNR officials hope it will include 100 rooms, 200 parking spots, a dining room, gift shop, indoor pool and meeting spaces.
Indiana’s state park inns are the leader in occupancy rates for the country, including both those privately and publicly operated. In 2013, the lodges had an occupancy rate of nearly 58 percent. It was higher than 61 percent the previous year.
The state plans to build the lodge in a zone near the Whispering Wind picnic area located near the west end of the park. It is located away from the main road, minimizing the necessity for inn traffic going through the majority of the park.
Max Bomber is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.