Key takeaways, including big staffing change, from presentation on Lanier Islands resort

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May 25—From closing beach access to Lake Lanier to new attractions and a big staffing change, the Lanier Islands resort in South Hall has much going on these days.

Here's a few takeaways from a Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce presentation Thursday, May 25.

Grier Todd stepping down as COO

Grier Todd, the resort's longtime chief operating officer, is retiring June 2.

"It's been a great run at the islands," he said. "I've had a wonderful opportunity to work with (resort owner) Virgil Williams since 2005."

He has worked at the resort since 2001, or before the Williams family took over the lease to operate the resort. He was in charge of boat rentals, after spending 10 years with the Atlanta Falcons for 10 years.

Hall County "is an unbelievable place to live and work, and I look forward to the future," Todd said.

Resort exec defends beach access decision

Matthew Bowling, the resort's new vice president, defended Margaritaville at Lanier Islands' move to install a fence along shoreline to prevent beach visitors from swimming in the lake.

The only area where lake access will remain open is the Aquatic Adventure Wibit Attraction, which is being expanded to include more inflatable attractions.

"As you all know, lakes across the country and across Georgia experience drownings every single summer — terrible events that we do not want happening at Lanier Island," Bowling said.

Margaritaville officials said in a statement earlier this month, "While we understand that this may be disappointing for some, we believe it is the right decision to maintain a safe environment for all our guests to enjoy and will allow us to put added focus on other parts of the park to offer a better overall experience for all our water park guests."

The Army Corps of Engineers recently said that per the lease agreement between the agency and Margaritaville, "the lessee is within their rights to restrict water access around the property due to concerns of safety."

Post-pandemic resort business doing well

Resort officials expect the hotel industry and resort business to grow — good news for the resort's Legacy Lodge hotel and conference center.

"This would be due in large part to the continued strength of business travel," Bowling said.

Also, the resort also could benefit from people who didn't or couldn't travel during the COVID-19 pandemic and "are now looking for somewhere to go."

Plus, there's a pent-up demand for weddings, a popular activity at Lake Lanier.

Game Changer attraction has been 'huge hit'

Bowling touted the resort's new indoor attraction, Game Changer, which boasts about 50 arcade games, a prize store, virtual sports suites simulating everything from golf and bowling to hockey and quail hunting, ax throwing, an escape room and a 9-hole indoor putting green.

"Our customers were looking for different entertainment on the islands," Bowling said.

The two-story, 30,000-square-foot center also offers food and drinks.

"When we created this center, the idea was it was going to be for families and friends to come and enjoy, but it has also been a huge hit for groups," Bowling said. "We've also had a request from somebody to host a wedding rehearsal dinner there, so we're pretty thrilled about that."

Renovation of lake houses is done

A facelift of 30 rental lake houses over the past couple of years has been completed.

"They're actually our most popular product on the islands," Bowling said. "People love the feel of a hotel room, but they also like the privacy of being able to pull up and just kind of have it to themselves for the weekend."