SANDUSKY, Ohio — Cedar Point continues to expand beyond its park gates, with the purchase last week of Sawmill Creek Resort, the lakefront property and lodge in Huron that may help boost the park’s corporate and group business.

Sawmill Creek, with 236 rooms and 50,000 square feet of meeting space, has long been a popular location for group gatherings.

But first things first: Cedar Fair, the parent company of Cedar Point, plans to invest heavily in the property to bring it up to company standards.

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Brian Witherow, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Cedar Fair, said visitors can expect a before-and-after remodel at Sawmill Creek similar in quality and scope to the renovations at Hotel Breakers, the park’s historic lakefront hotel, which underwent a top-to-bottom, $50 million makeover in 2015.

“The rooms and the resort are a little tired,” Witherow said. “That’s where the opportunity lies for us. We’ve got the financial ability to go in there and reinvest.”

Cedar Fair purchased Sawmill Creek for $13.5 million, according to Erie County property records. The seller is listed as Sawmill Creek Lodge Co.; majority owner Greg Hill did not return several requests for comment.

Renovations should take about two years to complete, Witherow said. The goal is to keep the lodge open during remodeling.

The 18-hole golf course, designed by Tom Fazio in 1974, will be renovated as well. It’s Cedar Fair’s first golf course, “not counting miniature golf,” joked Witherow.

“We see adding Sawmill Creek as a way to strengthen the appeal of Cedar Point and the Sandusky area as a multiday vacation destination,” Witherow said.

Cedar Fair, the parent company of Cedar Point, recently purchased Sawmill Creek Resort in Huron, about 7 miles east of the amusement park. The purchase includes a 236-room lodge and 18-hole golf course designed by Tom Fazio.

Cedar Fair, the parent company of Cedar Point, recently purchased Sawmill Creek Resort in Huron, about 7 miles east of the amusement park. The purchase includes a 236-room lodge and 18-hole golf course designed by Tom Fazio.

In addition to adding roller coasters and other rides, the park in recent years has invested heavily in attractions designed to encourage longer stays, including renovating Cedar Point Shores water park and improving access and activities on the Lake Erie beach.

The park also has expanded its reach beyond the Cedar Point Peninsula.

In 2017, it opened Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center, with 10 fields for baseball, soccer, softball and lacrosse games and tournaments, drawing thousands of young athletes to the area, many from out of state. Later this year, an indoor component to the sports park will open, offering space for basketball, volleyball, wrestling and cheerleading tournaments. Both facilities are on Cleveland Road (U.S. 6), between Cedar Point and Sawmill Creek Resort.

Next year, Cedar Fair, in partnership with Bowling Green State University, will open a new college campus in downtown Sandusky, with housing and classroom space for students working toward degrees in the hospitality field.

Outside Ohio, Cedar Fair recently purchased two Schlitterbahn water-park resorts in Texas, in New Braunfels and Galveston, and has an option to buy a third property in Kansas City.

The buying spree this year marks the biggest capital expansion for Cedar Fair since the purchase of Paramount Parks in 2006.

Dennis Speigel, a theme park consultant, said the broadening of Cedar Fair’s portfolio makes economic sense. “They’ve been deriving a lot of revenue from their auxiliary properties like their hotels,” said Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati. “They’re looking for good properties that are geographically desirable for them, that have good industry service points.”

Of the Sawmill purchase, Speigel said: “I think this makes a lot of sense for them. What they’ve found in owning hotels like this is that it’s a great way to keep people on property, to cross promote and give them better value.”

Witherow said Cedar Fair had initial conversations with Sawmill Creek owners about a year and a half ago, but those talks stalled after the owners decided to go in a different direction. Several weeks ago, the owners approached Cedar Fair again, and a deal was quickly reached.

Said Witherow: “It’s always been a property we admired and saw potential in.”

Eventually, Cedar Point will add transportation from the resort to the amusement park, about 7 miles away, although that may not happen until 2020. Witherow said the Firelands Festival of Lights, a popular holiday event on the grounds of Sawmill Creek, will probably be retained, at least for the near future.

The purchase of Sawmill Creek increases the number of Cedar Fair-owned overnight rooms in the Sandusky area to just over 1,800, although many are available only during the busy summer and fall seasons.

The 50,000 square feet of meeting space at Sawmill Creek is far larger than what is available at either Castaway Bay or Hotel Breakers, both Cedar Point-owned hotels.

Witherow said Cedar Point has not yet decided what to do with the prime lakefront land previously occupied by Sandcastle Suites, torn down in 2017. “We have had a lot of different discussions about what to do with that space,” he said. “There is nothing imminent to talk about right now.”

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