Wheeling, W.Va. – As the Wheeling Park Commission’s Oglebay Park and Wheeling Park properties see more and more guests visiting following the downturn of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission has received another boost in recent days in the form of a grant.
The Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced a $6.6 million grant to the commission for the renovation of Wilson Lodge in Oglebay. Funding was made possible by the American Rescue Plan.
US Senator Joe Manchin announced the grant last week.
“EDA continues to be a strong partner for West Virginia through its support of economic development projects across the state. Today’s announcement is great news for the Wheeling Park Commission and its continued efforts to develop sustainable tourism growth in the region,” Manchin said. “Investing in local tourism creates well-paying jobs and boosts economic opportunity, and this investment is a step in the right direction to spur growing tourism in Ohio County. I look forward to seeing the positive impacts of this funding for the community of Wheeling and all of Mountain State.
Bob Peckenpaugh, chairman and CEO of the Wheeling Park Commission, told MetroNews the money will be used to upgrade the Ihlenfeld Dining Room and Glassworks Grill restaurants inside the lodge. He said the pair haven’t been updated in 10 to 15 years.
Peckenpaugh added that the work will include a modern finish, improved ADA access, and celebrate park views by opening spaces to the outdoors. He also said the money would revive greenhouses in the Hilltop section of Oglebay and the park would work with Grow Ohio Valley to set up an aquaponics farm, growing produce for use in restaurants.
“We have the opportunity here to make them fresh and exciting for our customers and the local community,” he told MetroNews.
He added that there will also be a local educational component at the farm and greenhouses. Peckenpaugh expects customers to see the changes to these two restaurants in January 2024.
Oglebay guests were able to visit a new restaurant last week with the opening of Lakeview Cantina. This is a general theme in Oglebay, as restaurant openings and upgrades have picked up in recent years, including the opening of the Garden Bistro and Route 88 BBQ & Brew.
“It’s about creating more excitement for the parks, giving people more reasons to come back and visit, whether it’s from out of town to spend a night at the lodge, or for our local community spends a day in the park,” Peckenpaugh said.
Apart from the upgrades planned with EDA funding, other Wilson Lodge amenities have been worked on. In December, Oglebay announced that the lodge would convert and integrate the Kline Wing into an extension of the West Wing. Rooms are being renovated in this wing.
Peckenpaugh said the lodge is upgrading about 45 rooms and will be completed this summer. Crews are also upgrading 10 cabins on park property as the park nears completion of cabin renovations.
At Wheeling Park, Oglebay’s sister park on the state highway in Wheeling, Peckenpaugh said officials wanted to renovate the White Palace and include a cafe on the first floor.
He said with everything going on, it’s a nice change of pace from the 25% drop in business and being forced to lay off workers due to COVID-19.
According to the EDA, the $6.6 million grant is expected to create 45 jobs, retain 192 jobs and generate $20 million in private investment funds.
“There’s a real energy and vibe to this place right now and we’re very excited. Most recently, we achieved record occupancy rates and revenues. We think parks are poised for success right now,” Peckenpaugh said.