Upgrades at right time drive business for Okoboji resort

July 27, 2020

The chain reaction was instant: As soon as Bridges Bay Resort opened its expanded outdoor water park in June, condos started selling.

“The sales were really, really strong,” said Jon Broek, president of Equity Homes. “We’ve sold out 100 percent of all our condos now.”

Bridges Bay, which sits on East Lake Okoboji in northwest Iowa, is one way the Sioux Falls business community has put its stamp on the regional tourist area.

It’s a partnership between Sioux Falls-based Equity Homes, which develops and sells the condo side, and Sioux Falls-based Regency Hotel Management, which operates the hotel side.

The property has grown steadily since it was developed in the mid-2000s, to the point that its existing water park could no longer accommodate demand.

The expansion creates nearly five times more to do, with an emphasis on competitive fun. There are racing slides, basketball and volleyball courts in the water and soon lily pads for racing.

An outdoor hot tub will remain open in the winter.

“It’s been really, really well received – lots and lots of compliments and has been a huge addition to the whole resort,” Broek said.

There also have been some meeting rooms added for parties and an expanded arcade that features redemption-style games and a self-serve prize center.

“That’s four times larger than our old arcade, much more up-to-date and state-of-the-art features, so that’s been a huge hit also,” Broek said.

In addition to driving condo sales, it’s helping hotel occupancy during a year when many properties are dealing with historic drops.

When COVID-19 took hold in March, the resort went from having all 212 rooms rented for a weekend to all reservations canceling once the indoor water park was forced to close, Broek said.

“I think for the summer we’ll probably be at 80 percent of what we were, so we’re doing better than most. We’re pretty happy with that, you know, considering the circumstances.”

The resort has posted signage reminding guests to maintain distance, and there’s frequent cleaning. Housekeeping doesn’t enter a hotel room until guests have checked out.

When development is complete – likely in less than two years – Bridges Bay will have grown to include 500 units that are a mix of owned and hotel, six swimming pools, two full-service restaurants, a snack bar and a swim-up bar. It has drawn many Sioux Falls-area buyers and visitors, Broek said.

The newest building, just starting construction, will be called Stillwater and offer condos from $500,000 to $800,000, though pricing is still being finalized. At 52 units, it’s the largest building and will include 17 five-bedroom condos, lots of four-bedrooms and a few three-bedrooms.

“Every one of them is direct lakefront,” Broek said. “And then we’re doing a rooftop patio, a community patio for that building.”

The building also will include a triangular outdoor pool that “we’re putting right on the water’s edge, so you’ll be able to sit at the pool and watch the lake at the same time.”

Prospective residents will be able to reserve condos this year – something that hasn’t been done since the resort opened – and they’re scheduled to be ready by late 2021.

In addition, 27 cottage-style “tiny homes” are being built and will be ready to rent next summer.

“They’re 600 square feet, two bedrooms with a full kitchen,” Broek said. “Probably our least expensive stay on the resort, small, very quaint.”

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Upgrades at right time drive business for Okoboji resort

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