By Bill Beggs Jr.
Ahh… fresh fish at Lake of the Ozarks. Bass, of course. But it’s not largemouth or smallmouth—it’s sea bass. The Lodge of Four Seasons is the only resort in the lake region with fresh seafood on the menu, as Mike Parker, food and beverage director, proudly points out.
The Lodge has been long renowned for its fine dining, championship golf, award-winning spa and—with more than 65,000 square feet of space and 30 function rooms—its ability to accommodate meetings of almost any size. Real estate agents, bankers and trial lawyers have staged successful events in the 20,000-square-foot clear-span conference center. Last spring, the Missouri Emergency Medical Services Association (MEMSA) brought a half-dozen ambulances into the exhibit hall to show off the latest in rolling stock for EMTs.
“And a helicopter,” says Barb Shupe, who spearheaded planning for the MEMSA event. For the last four years she has been sold on the Lodge’s attention to detail and has no plans to take the business elsewhere. “They know your needs. They’re always one step ahead of me, which is awesome.”
Stretching Summertime Business
This October The Lodge celebrates its 43rd year in business. Built by St. Louis business mogul Harold Koplar as a getaway between Memorial Day and Labor Day, The Lodge in recent years has seen business bustling spring through fall—there’s plenty to attract individuals and groups year-round.
Regardless of how frightful the weather outside is, Spa Shiki (Japanese for “four seasons”) offers treatments for mind, body and soul. A floor made of bamboo invites serenity-seekers into an environment that soothes holistically with massage, music and exotic scents. National magazines Self and Allure are among numerous publications to award the spa with high ratings.
“Award-winning” is an adjective frequently associated with The Lodge of Four Seasons. Rand McNally bestowed its 2007 “Best of The Midwest” honor to The Lodge in Midwest Getaway Guide. In 2006, Meetings MidAmerica named Spa Shiki the best spa for groups in the Midwest. Also, various golf publications have found the Witches Cove and Seasons Ridge courses noteworthy.
In years past, couples and families may have been the majority of visitors, but today, groups are. Norma Zachar, director of groups, says they account for 70 percent of annual business. Groups can reserve dates between November and December, or January and February, at very competitive rates. During winter months, companies may book the entire property for corporate functions and year-round, clients have the option of reserving various facilities and attractions separately or all together—including HK’s restaurant, the 229-seat cinema and the scenic excursion boat.
Dramatic Changes Inside The Lodge
The unique lobby has long enchanted visitors. It was once carpeted to evoke winter, spring, summer and fall. Now the décor is a low-key mix of warm browns, golds and tans showing off the central wood-burning fireplace that roars in cool weather. During the summer, the comfortable seating surrounding the hearth is no less a gathering place. A look overhead offers a breathtaking view to the heavens through a skylight.
Koplar’s art collection lends drama to the environment: A bronze of a Native American clutching a captured eagle; a massive, yet intricate, 200-year-old Chinese burlwood piece that depicts large cats and birds of prey vying for dominance on a mountain. On the way to Breezes, a popular casual-dining spot, a brook babbling below delights guests. Pumped from the lake, the mountain stream flows inside, and outside through the Japanese garden—a choice location for weddings.
A hot new nightclub, Mist, opened in May. This chic venue is the result of a $350,000 renovation by the impresarios behind Pepper, Nectar and Mandarin, trendy hotspots throughout St. Louis. A club deejay spins the latest dance mixes for young adults, the aim being to attract revelers from off-property, says Kay Samuelson, associate director of sales for The Lodge. Folks who may have just dropped in for a good time can’t help but get a fresh feel and new appreciation for this venerable destination.
Expansion Beyond The Lodge
Several phases of expansion and improvement are under way or planned; Avila is the first. It is the first building of this condominium hotel that will feature 36 condos, some with a lake view. Four such buildings are on the drawing board, with a total offering of 145 two-bedroom units. It will boost the number of rooms on the property to 450. Before making the final decision to proceed, members of the Brown family (current owners and descendants of Koplar) were raised in a cherry picker to the highest planned floor level. From there, they pronounced the view to be suitably panoramic.
Another phase of redevelopment will be along the waterfront proper. Patio homes and condos will take the place of an older section of the lodge along Seasons Bay.
The Biltmore philosophy will continue as the rule of thumb for development, Samuelson emphasizes: Residents and guests have access to all amenities of the Lodge, from room service to housekeeping.
The Lodge Makes Meetings Enjoyable
The Lodge can be a wonderful place for incentive travel as well as corporate meetings, says Samuelson. But depending on the CEO’s mindset, here it might be hard to tell the difference. The obligatory “10 minutes of meetings” might be interspersed with 18 holes in the morning, waterskiing in the afternoon and an evening massage.
When it is time to meet, the exhibit hall isn’t merely a carpeted space designed to hold 100-plus exhibits.
“We’ve hosted plated dinners for 1,000 people,” Samuelson says. “And we’ve handled 1,600 for theater.”
For more than a decade, the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, in Columbia, Mo., has held its annual Summer Celebration at The Lodge. In 2006, the benefit grew from one evening to two.
The event’s growth has been a wonderful problem to have, says board member Helen Oetting—especially since The Lodge has been able to accommodate the group’s evolving needs and more ambitious goals.
“Having the Friday night party has allowed us to open the doors to so many more people,” says Oetting. “The Lodge is the perfect place to have an event like this. There are just so many options.”
To kick off the gala last August, St. Louis swing band Dr. Zhivegas was booked for the Friday night dance party in the exhibit hall. As it has for 11 years now, the traditional formal banquet was held in the Marbella Ballroom on Saturday night. Internationally renowned jazz vocalist Patti Austin was on the marquee. Previous years have featured the likes of Burt Bacharach, Neil Sedaka, Al Jarreau and the late, great Lou Rawls.
Many Choices of Spaces Lighten a Planner’s Load
To create a dedicated space in the exhibit hall away from the hustle and bustle of an expo or conference, curtains can separate a captive audience from the floor. An ideal setup depends only on a meeting planner’s ingenuity.
All equipped with T1 Internet connections, here is a glance at other unique meeting spaces:
• The Granada Ballroom can accommodate up to 1,300 theater-style and can be divided for groups of 100 to 700.
• The Marbella Ballroom accommodates 50 to 900. The permanent dance floor and stage make the Marbella a great setting for social events. This room can also be divided.
• The Lookout and Eagle’s Peak rooms feature panoramic views of the lake for an inspiring small- to mid-size meeting.
• The Cordoba Theater, with amphitheater seating for up to 250, is good for presentations and offers a desktop extension in an arm of each chair.
• The Terrace rooms with outdoor patios work well as hospitality space. The boardroom settings and natural rock walls create a good environment for small meetings.
• The Barcelona and Madrid rooms serve well for breakout sessions and small groups.
• The Valencia, with seating for up to 200, can be divided. The rooftop patio is an ideal setting for breaks and outdoor functions.
• The Seachase overlooks the lake’s main channel and is ideal for a group reception, dinner or meeting.
Grand Geneva Resort Vet Getting His Feet Wet, Very Wet
Dave Griffin, general manager of The Lodge since November 2006, has been in the hospitality industry 24 years, 15 of them with Marriott. The Lodge wooed him from arguably one of the finest resorts in the Midwest, at Lake Geneva, Wis.
To make meetings more effective, water is the way to go. Griffin, who’s also spent plenty of his career on dry land, should know.
“As long as you have a lake in your backyard, you’re doing OK,” he says with a grin. “Your people want to come here. They’re genuinely happy when they walk in the front door. That makes a lot of difference.” And that, Griffin says, is why meetings held at the resort are so popular and effective.
(Bill Beggs Jr. is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.)
The Lodge of Four Seasons
Box 215 Horseshoe Bend Parkway
Lake Ozark, MO 65049
General information: 1-800-THE-LAKE
Meeting and event information: