The Inn closing? Signs point to yes

Wednesday, October 18, 2017
The Inn at Okoboji may not open for another season. A sign in the window Thursday read, "The Inn closed! Thanks for a great 121 years!" The resort property was put up for auction and bidding closed late last month. The winning bidder, the purchase amount and intended plans for the property have yet to be officially divulged. (Photos by Seth Boyes)

The bidding process for local landmark resort The Inn at Okoboji is finished and the resort staff are preparing for some potentially major changes. Details of the sale have not been disclosed. The identity of the Inn's new owner, the purchase amount and the new owner's plans for business on the property remain unknown.

After The Inn was initially sold at auction late last month, Mitch Brown, sales manager with The Inn, said staff was continuing to book reservations until given reason to do otherwise. The Inn General Manager Scott Pyle on Thursday confirmed plans are changing.

"We're in the process of refunding anyone who had reservations," Pyle said.

Though Pyle made no mention of The Inn permanently closing, a sign hung in the resort's window Thursday, which read: “The Inn closed! Thanks for a great 121 years!" The pool was drained and outdoor equipment was covered in plastic tarps for the winter ahead. The popular resort was still and its windows remained dark as the wind and waves crashed against the shoreline of West Lake Okoboji.

Pyle said staff was informed Wednesday they may maintain their positions for a time — possibly the sale's Dec. 15 closing date. He was unsure if any of the staff will be retained for future business plans on the property. Pyle said he has not been informed of the new owner's plans for the property.

Michael Jensen of Jensen Realty in Arnolds Park confirmed he represented the buyer during the auction process, but was unable to comment further. Jensen indicated more details regarding the sale will be released at a later date. Jon Hjelm, auctioneer and owner of the Acre Company which handled the sale, said the property attracted 10 bidders and the final bidding process was completed in a matter of hours.

The property was originally owned by Aaron Dixon in 1867 and changed hands several times before J.A. Beck bought the land in two separate purchases, according to The Inn’s online history. A portion of the Inn Hotel, consisting of 24 rooms, was constructed in 1896 and expanded the next season. The hotel was quickly repaired after a fire in 1934 and was razed and replaced in 1955 by the New Inn Resort Complex. The Inn at Okoboji was restored in 1999 by David and Lisa Slattery of Omaha, Nebraska, who owned The Inn until 2011.

The Inn at Okoboji was most recently owned by a group of banks. Earlier this year, Central Bank sought a court ruling regarding ownership of The Inn, saying it owned the deed, after the previous owners — Iowa Great Lakes Holding — defaulted on loans that were received from Liberty Bank of West Des Moines between 2008 and 2009. Central Bank acquired Liberty Bank’s assets, including the deed to The Inn, on Oct. 1, 2013. However, the Iowa Supreme Court and District Court Judge Carl Petersen ruled the group of banks, including Iowa State Bank, First State Bank, Farmers Savings Bank, Farmers Trust & Savings Bank and First Community Bank, provided 40.52 percent of the loan and should own 40.52 percent of the collateral — specifically The Inn.

The property includes 155 units, 359 feet of West Okoboji lakeshore and a nine-hole golf course, according to information on The Acre Company's website.

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