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Corporate retreating.

Corporate Retreating

Tanyard Springs Plans $9-Million Expansion To Accommodate Businesses

Three years ago, area newspapers ran stories about a soon-to-happen expansion at the award-winning Tanyard Springs Resort on Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton. But not even a spadeful of dirt was tossed.

Now, with Winthrop Paul Rockefeller as the retreat's sole owner, the expansion is funded and scheduled to begin in 12 to 18 months.

The development originally was slated to begin in 1988 when Tanyard Springs founders Jim and Jane Fruge owned part of the retreat, and Rockefeller was a partner. While details are sketchy, it seems Rockefeller gradually bought out the Fruge's interest.

The artist's rendering of the $8- to $9-million expansion includes 40 units, a conference lodge, a gym and a second, larger restaurant. The units will be suites built in groups of six or eight on Sunrise Point on the brow of the mountain.

The conference center complex is designed to cater to the resort's growing corporate retreat business. While it's been said the resort is for the "newlywed and the nearly dead," that is changing as businesses discover what Tanyard Springs has to offer.

Of Tanyard Springs' estimated $1.2 million in 1991 revenues, President and General Manager George Adkisson says about 75 percent will come from personal retreats and the remaining 25 percent from company-oriented retreats.

Adkisson predicts that when the new lodge area is operational, business retreats will be 40 to 45 percent of Tanyard Spring's business.

The resort currently employs about 30, but that number should triple when the expansion is complete.

A New Direction

Already, Lance Watkins, director of marketing, is pitching the resort to companies and meeting planners. There is a newly crafted video; Adkisson smiles at the TV screen as he watches it.

The new marketing effort is paying off. Among the groups that have used the facilities are Micro Computer Center, Arkansas Power & Light Co., Nationwide Insurance and the cardiology department of Arkansas Children's Hospital.

"We had a barbecue, and they provided the grills with the coals already started," says Cathy Dicus, office manager for the Arkansas Children's Hospital group.

A committee of 12 attorneys responsible for grading the bar exam found the resort conducive to their work. AmTran of Conway displayed several bus models around the property during a product meeting, and Twin City Bank's senior management spent a weekend atop Petit Jean.

"I think you have not seen the last of us," Donna Clevidence, executive secretary to the bank's CEO, wrote the resort. "We completely enjoyed the privacy of your cabins and loved the service."

Adkisson thinks the businesses want their people to be well cared for, but they look for a place where they can carry out their own agenda.

"They have to come here with some purpose in mind," he says. "Organizations seem to recognize the need for quality time; they don't want distractions."

The airstrip atop Petit Jean, which is located a couple of miles from the resort, may some day come in handy as businesses jet in.

According to Adkisson, the resort management realized there was a real opportunity when the resort wasn't being marketed aggressively to the business community, but was being approached by companies.

The past five years have not been particularly good for resort development, and the return on one is not as quick as a conventional business hotel, but that's where someone with Rockefeller's resources comes in.

"Go into a conventional lender with this type of plan and scare them to death," says Adkisson.

There are additional plans, such as an executive golf course, that haven't been funded yet but are being talked about.

Resort Of The Year

Even without a growing business clientele, the 200-acre resort has made a name for itself across the country. Established in 1983, it's estimated that $2 million was spent on the 13 original, themed cabins, among them "The Gambler," "The Stagecoach" and the romantic "Adrienne DuMont."

In 1989 it was ranked in Family Circle magazine's Top Five U.S. Cabin Resorts, and in 1990, it was named the magazine's Resort of the Year.

The resort's client base tends to be higher income -- cabins average $125 to $150 per night -- and well-travelled. More than 65 percent of its guests come from out of state, in particular Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.

"They consider Arkansas the mountains," says Adkisson.

Seventy percent of the resort's guests return, and word-of-mouth is the chief advertising medium. The resort is full about 45 weekends out of the year, and its average occupancy rate is between 65 and 68 percent.

Petit Jean's fall foliage is a big draw, and October weekends are booked by midsummer. Holiday weekends fill up quickly, and even winter weekends are busy. (Each cabin has a wood-burning stove.)

As the resort's reputation spreads, look for its guest list to grow for both business and pleasure.

PHOTO : OLD MADE NEW: George Adkisson, president and general manager of Tanyard Springs hopes to someday add an executive golf course to the rustic-inspired cabin retreat.

PHOTO : PEACE OF THE PAST: The quiet and privacy of the resort has attracted individual and corporate retreat business.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:amenities of Tanyard Springs Resort geared to corporate retreat business
Author:Ford, Kelly
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:May 20, 1991
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