Kentucky would get its first two privately operated lodges at state parks if solicitations issued this week work out.
The state issued requests for private developers to make proposals on building a hotel or resort lodge with a restaurant at Burnside Island State Park in Pulaski County and at Pine Mountain State Resort Park in Bell County.
There already is a popular lodge atop Pine Mountain at the Bell County park. The proposed new hotel or lodge would be at Wasioto Winds Golf Course just off U.S. 25E at the bottom of the mountain, which is part of the park.
There are lodges at 17 of the state's 49 parks, not including Breaks Interstate Park, which straddles the Kentucky-Virginia line at Pike County and has a lodge.
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Burnside Island and Pine Mountain are the only parks where the state is soliciting private proposals for lodges, said Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.
Officials in Burnside and Pineville said Thursday that they thought the proposed lodges would boost tourism and help the local economies.
"It would be a wonderful project," Burnside Mayor Ron Jones said.
Pineville Mayor Scott Madon noted that an effort was underway to build a large wildlife center near town.
The city will need additional overnight accommodations for visitors to the center and other planned developments, Madon said.
"If they build it there on that golf course it'll be such a plus," he said of the proposed lodge.
Madon said he did not think a new hotel at Wasioto Winds would affect occupancy at the existing lodge at Pine Mountain because of its unique location.
Under the proposals, developers would cover the cost to build and operate the lodges, and pay the state rent or a portion of revenues. It's seen as a way to enhance the parks without the state having to bear the cost.
The developer could get back a sizeable piece of the investment through a state tax incentive.
A 2014 feasibility study released with the Burnside solicitation envisioned a lodge with 60 to 100 rooms, a 300-seat restaurant, a conference center, cottages and an indoor recreation center with a pool. The developer would have the option of negotiating to operate the 18-hole golf course and campground on the island.
The feasibility study said parking for the lodge would wipe out about 45 of the 110 sites at the campground, though a developer would not be bound by what the study envisioned.
Neither request specified the number of rooms at the proposed lodges at Burnside and Pineville. That would be subject to the proposals and negotiations with the state, Lawson said.
Madon said a developer was considering a 100-room hotel at the golf course. As at Burnside, a developer could negotiate to manage the golf course at Pineville.
State employees affected by the projects could apply for jobs with the private developer or go to another state park, Lawson said.
Local officials have long wanted hotels at Burnside Island and the Pineville golf course, but efforts to interest private developers did not pan out.
The state is doing the solicitation differently this time, however.
Rather than having to submit a full-blown proposal upfront, developers will provide information on experience, finances and other issues, and the state will pick three to submit more detailed information.
Lawson said state officials also think the process will increase the incentive for developers to get involved.
Madon agreed that the new approach would increase interest. The reason is that a developer would be assured of making the cut for further consideration before having to draft a costly plan for the entire project, he said.
"Those initial costs, a lot of time, will drive people away," Madon said.
Louisville-based developer Michael Czerwonka said he and partners considered building a 150-room lodge and other amenities under a similar proposal issued last year for Burnside.
Czerwonka said he did not submit a formal proposal because of a requirement to pay prevailing wages on the project. That would have added 22 percent or more to the cost, he said.
The new requests for proposals also require paying prevailing wages.