A Tale of Two Resorts: Blackstone and Xanterra

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Months ago, a story came out in a local newspaper stating that Blackstone planned to add a full resort hotel somewhere in the area to supplement Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA. Rumors about this resort have been sparse but hopefully that’s beginning to change. Before we jump into the big news, a little bit of a back story is needed. Up until a year or so ago, Blackstone, the current owners of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, also owned a 30% stake in the Universal parks- all of which have thriving resorts. Furthermore, Blackstone holds large investments in the Hilton and the La Quinta Inns & Suites hotel chains. With a history like that, they definitely have the experience required to start a resort here in Williamsburg. Seems pretty straight-forward, right? Wrong. Nothing can be that easy.

 

Blackstone wasn’t the only group looking to add a large resort to the Williamsburg area. There was another company who wanted to work on a very similar project- a 210 room resort with a new two story restaurant, conference space, a new pool complex, an expanded marina, and much more. Who was this? Colorado-based Xanterra Parks and Resorts. Who are they? They’re the group that bought Kingsmill from InBev after InBev bought out Anheuser Busch. Basically, Blackstone wanted to build a resort at Busch Gardens which was previously an Anheuser Busch property and Xanterra wanted to build a resort right next door at Kingsmill, another property that once belonged to Anheuser Busch. As news about Busch Garden’s future resort began to trickle out, Xanterra (Kingsmill) began to realize that the two resorts couldn’t coexist right next door to each other and they pulled their application due to what Kingsmill described as budget concerns before it could be approved or denied by the James City County Planning Commission. Sounds a bit fishy, right? Well it should because it is. What was going on behind the scenes? Blackstone and Xanterra were at the negotiating table discussing their next venture: A jointly operated and funded resort at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

 

What do we know about this new Blackstone and Xanterra owned resort? Frankly, not much. We’ve heard that it should be completed sometime between 2013 and 2015 and that it will be somewhere on Busch Gardens (not Water Country or Kingsmill) property. This news honestly leaves me (and probably you too) with more question than answers- What does this mean for the limited land that Busch Gardens has left? What kind of infrastructure (roads, water, power, etc.) will it require and how will that effect the World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park? There’s a lot of questions left unanswered- there’s not doubt about that. Hopefully history will repeat itself and answers will begin to come out sometime soon.

 

Remember, news pops up on the BGWFans Forums way before it does here. How much sooner? There’s been a thread about a possible resort coming to the park since April.

Update (January 16th)

BGWFans is now able to share the rumored location of this new resort. All of our sources agree that the resort will be built on the undeveloped land behind Festhaus park where the “Boneyard” is currently located. The “Boneyard” has reportedly already had many of its contents removed and this process will continue until construction on the resort itself begins. Along with the location, we can also say that that there’s a lot of chatter about a train station being built along the section of train tracks that run behind Festhaus Park. Supposedly this new station will be added along with the resort and will serve as an entry and exit point for resort guests. A rough map to give you an idea of the locations of all of this can be found on the BGWFans Forums, here.

Update (February 24th)

As predicted, permits have been filed! The full story can be found here.