But, a Horseshoe Bend company, with a track record of attracting large numbers of visitors to town, has wound up with the job of renovating, revitalizing and running the resort.
At the end of October, the Decor Corporation, which owns the Crown Point Resort on Crown Lake, purchased Hillhigh. Crown Point offers a variety of lodging options for couples and families who purchase time share vacation plans through the RCI Corporation.
"It's a work in progress, but we are currently open as a hotel," said Joe Beavers, the general manager of the facility, which has been renamed the Cedar Glade Hotel, Spa and Golf Course. "We are beginning major renovations and will eventually re-open the restaurant and health spa, and will create a new multi-purpose space for events."
Jerry Smith, who operated the Hillhigh Resort for the estate of his brother, Carlie Smith, announced in late July the resort was closing. Long time employees said the struggle to attract guests in the bad economy, and the high cost of maintaining the aging facility were factors in the decision to close.
The executor of Smith's estate hired Wilson Auctioneers of Hot Springs to auction the resort, golf course and a 72- acre plot of undeveloped land. Despite a marketing campaign to promote the auction, more spectators than bidders showed up for the event.
Cooper Realty bought the entire property, including the resort and golf course for $250,000 - a price observers called "unbelievably low."
Paul Behrndt, one of the owners of the Crown Point Resort, attended the auction with his son, who jokingly said his job was to keep his father from bidding. While Behrndt did not bid at the auction, later discussions with Cooper Realty led to his company's purchase of Hillhigh.
"During the summer season, the Crown Point Resort brings 400-plus people to Horseshoe on a weekly basis," said Beavers. "The Cedar Glade complex will allow us to offer Crown Point guests more to do while they are here visiting us, including golf and entertainment events, and we feel like we can market Cedar Glade throughout the region to people looking for a unique spot for a relaxing getaway, reunions and other events. We intend to give this place some life again."
Beavers said the golf course at Cedar Glade will be a big amenity for Crown Point guests. While some improvements will be made to the golf course, it is in good shape and will remain open until early December, when it will close until spring.
Crown Point presents entertainment events for its guests including Karaoke, an Elvis tribute performer, and a magic show. Beavers explained plans call for those events to be moved to the Cedar Glade Hotel and others to be added.
According to Beavers, Cedar Glade will be renovated inside and out. One of the first things the new owners did was remove a large brick fence along the front of the resort. Holiday lighting is now being added outside the hotel.
Cedar Glade currently has 39 rooms available for rent, at discount winter rates that begin at $39 a night. The new owners have begun work to get 31 other rooms renovated and back in use. "We are already getting guests, and expect to do a good business over Thanksgiving and Christmas, as people come to town to visit friends and relatives." said Beavers.
In addition, the health spa will be re-opened soon, after getting new paint to create a brighter, more inviting space.
The old Carriage Room restaurant, to be re-named The Glades Restaurant, will get a face lift, with plans to re-open it after the first of the year. The lounge next door is also expected to eventually be re-opened, as Cedars Lounge.
"We are going to turn the lobby into a multi-purpose room. Right now, it is a large wasted space," said Beavers.
For years, the Tip-Top Club, on the second floor, was the resort's spot for dancing and night life. According to Beavers, the space was often hot and stuffy when large crowds were present, and climbing a flight of stairs to reach it was inconvenient for many.
"We are going to put a stage with lighting and a sound system in the back of the lobby," said Beavers. "We will add tables and put a concession area in, so we can have concerts and dances. The carpet is coming up. We will replace it with new durable flooring, so we can easily move things around to hold all kinds of events."
While it is in operation now, the Cedar Glade Hotel and Spa's coming out party will begin in March when it hosts a popular event the hotel introduced in 2010 - Ozarks Got Singers. The 2010 competition attracted about 100 singers and lots of spectators during its four week run. With a $5,000 grand prize, the 2012 version is expected to attract even more participants, and the new multi-purpose area will be better suited to handle large crowds.
"We are going to promote it as far away as Memphis and Branson," said Beavers, who has been whetting the public's appetite for Ozarks Got Singers by holding a smaller scale competition on his 8:05 Saturday morning radio show on KSAR. "I've been featuring area artists each week and asking listeners to call and vote for their favorite. I've gotten 300-plus calls a week. Round One just finished, and we will do a Round Two after the first of the year. "
|The first big public event at the Cedar Glade Hotel and Spa will be the Chamber of Commerce's annual Festival of Trees. The annual exhibition, which features themed Christmas trees decorated by Horseshoe Bend clubs, organizations and businesses, will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 3 and 4, in the hotel lobby.|
"Hillhigh always hosted the Christmas tree display, and we are going to continue it," said Beavers. "The resort has always been a center for community activities and events, and residents are happy to hear it's going to remain open. We're getting a lot of lookers - people stopping by to see what is going on."
"They are going to be a solid owner, who will put a lot into the resort and will promote it to make it successful," said Mayor Bob Barnes, who is excited to know Crown Point has emerged as the owner of the former Hillhigh Resort.
"They do a great job with the condos and are always improving Crown Point," Barnes told The News. I look for them to keep Cedar Glade clean and nice and develop its potential."
As he talked about the complex, Beaver kept mentioning how much work needed to be done to get the hotel in shape. "There has been a lot of deferred maintenance," is the phrase he often used to describe the need for upcoming projects.
Did the owners of the Crown Point Resort realize what they were getting into?
"No regrets," said Beavers. "I think everyone is excited. Crown Point attracts people from all over the world, not just the U.S. We have families who come here year after year. We think we have the experience to do the same thing at Cedar Glade."