Norwalk Reflector: Cedar Point parent company buying Sawmill Creek resort
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Cedar Point parent company buying Sawmill Creek resort

By Michael Harrington • Jul 5, 2019 at 2:00 PM

HURON TWP. — Cedar Point’s parent company has signed a deal to purchase Sawmill Creek Resort.

The purchase price is not known. However, the Erie County auditor’s website valued the resort and convention center portions at more than $8 million when last assessed in 2018.

The deal was signed Tuesday. For now, business at Sawmill Creek Resort will continue as usual, Cedar Fair officials said.

Cedar Fair, which is headquartered in Sandusky, is “excited about the opportunity” to add Sawmill Creek to its growing portfolio, which also includes the recent purchases of two Texas water parks and the land it was leasing in California for its Great America amusement park, according to Richard Zimmerman, Cedar Fair president and CEO, who was interviewed for a story in the Sandusky Register.

“We were built as a company by making acquisitions,” Brian Witherow, Cedar Fair vice president and CFO, told the Register. “When we see these opportunities we take a chance and jump at them. It’s a coincidence that these all happened so close together.

While Witherow told the Register that Cedar Fair plans to upgrade and modernize Sawmill Creek, similar to what was done at Cedar Point’s Hotel Breakers resort, there was no announcement about specific plans or future development.

Sawmill Creek Lodge opened in September 1972 on Cleveland Road, near Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve, becoming one of the first places to establish year-round tourism to the area with its high-end resort and offerings.

It boasts a 240-room hotel, 18-hole golf course, convention center, restaurants, shops, condominiums and a marina.

For nearly two years, there has been repeated speculation that the resort was up for sale with Cedar Fair the supposed top contender to purchase it.

Another resort company, however, was in contract to purchase Sawmill Creek, according to sources. The company even filed for a business license with the Ohio Secretary of State under the Sawmill Creek name in September 2018.

But that deal fell through, putting Cedar Point is a position to take over the property. A source told the Register that Cedar Fair’s top priority after purchasing the resort would be to stabilize the property.

Cedar Fair has made a number of investments along Cleveland Road, which is one of the main pathways to its flagship park Cedar Point, including the $24 million Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center, located down the road from Sawmill Creek.

 

Sawmill Creek history

In the 1970s, a group of investors spent $4.25 million — more than $26 million today when adjusted for inflation — to turn 235 acres on Lake Erie into a year-round attraction.

Greg Hill got in on the ground floor of the project when his company, Hill’s Interiors, sold 13,000 yards of carpeting for the hotel in 1969 when the plan was first announced.

In the 1980s, he was approached by the resort owners to purchase the land to the northwest of the resort and build a condominium complex, according to a 1995 Register article.

His ownership of Mariner Village Condominiums led to years of investments into the resort for Hill and his wife, Lisa. They would go on to own the yacht club and Mariner’s Club Restaurant. 

The Hills continued to come up with new ways to attract visitors to the resort and help the community including holiday favorite the Firelands Festival of Lights.

In 1995, the Hills and business partner Tom Bleile purchased the controlling stake of the entire resort complex. In 2009, the Hills and Jeffery Lococo bought out Bleile. The Hills became the majority owners and Lococo became the minority owner of the resort.

But many of the original investors, or their children and grandchildren — and others who later made investments in the property — continued to have financial interest in the resort.

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