Grand opening for multi-million dollar Lodge at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores

(image: WPMI) Grand opening for multi-million dollar Lodge at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores

A multi-million dollar lodging and entertainment center in the Gulf State Park has officially opened to welcome visitors from all over the country and the world.

The Lodge at Gulf State Park is finally back with a brand new vision which officials are calling a game changer for Alabama tourism.

Its predecessor, a modest lodging complex, was leveled by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

On Friday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey joined other State and local officials for The Lodge's grand opening at 10 a.m.

"Alabama's Gulf State Park will be a world class place to visit and it will be the crown jewel of tourism," said Gov. Ivey.

NBC 15 got a tour of the long-awaited $140 million attraction, which features a premium Hilton Hotel with 350 rooms, a large ballroom, conference center and meeting rooms.

It also includes several restaurants and educational facilities.

The site was built using environmentally friendly construction and paid for with BP payouts after the 2010 Oil Spill.

"I'm remembering the oil spill and standing on the edge of the Gulf, with the oil washing over your feet, thinking we'll never recover," said Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft.

Mayor Craft said the Lodge will go a long way toward educating people on what the State and Baldwin County has to offer.

"It's just an amazing feeling and a testament to the resiliency of the people who live here. We will not give up," Mayor Craft said.

In doing so, officials expect The Lodge to provide another boost to the area's already record-breaking economic numbers.

"This will be an adventure for people all over the world to come see a portion of what Alabama's all about. After they experience the Gulf State Lodge, they'll experience other avenues in Alabama that are available to them. So it's a win win for everybody," said Gov. Ivey.

Officials say this is still a soft grand opening. There are some kinks to work out but The Lodge will be running at full speed when reservations open in January.

NBC 15's Cory Pippin will have more at 5 p.m.

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