Officials in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are asking legislators to give the state-owned Honey Creek Resort more time to show a profit. A state audit released last month showed the resort along Rathbun Lake in southern Iowa had lost nearly $900,000 in its first 10 months. D.N.R. officials hired a private consultant who has confirmed those losses, but concluded the resort was “well managed.”
Pat Body, the deputy director of the D.N.R., says Honey Creek is faring about as well as similar resorts in the Midwest. “A lot of people are visiting and enjoying the facility so it is an amenity for the state,” she says. “It’s a quality of life piece that’s pretty important not just for southern Iowa but for all of Iowa.”
But some state legislators worry the 58-million dollar resort is taking too long to turn a profit, leaving taxpayers with the debt. Senators James Seymour of Woodbine and Matt McCoy of Des Moines both say the resort’s 18-hole golf course alone could sink the project. “A golfing entity has to go broke a couple of times and get rid of the capitol cost before some entity can come in make it cash flow on operations and I don’t know what’s going to happen here,” Seymour said during a meeting at the capitol this week.
“We’re well on our way,” McCoy chimed in. Seymour concluded the capitol investment could “strangle” the state. McCoy wants to sell or lease Honey Creek to a private company. But the D.N.R.’s deputy director cited the report from the consultant the D.N.R. hired, a consultant who suggested a golf course is a key component for a resort.
Honey Creek opened in September of 2008, this will be the first year all 18 holes of the course at Honey Creek are open to the public — if the weather cooperates. Honey Creek has 105 hotel rooms and 28 cottages. Rental rates have been lowered for the winter “off-season” in hopes of drawing in more visitors. The occupancy rate for those rooms and cabins has averaged 46%.