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New General Manager Takes Helm as Bavarian Inn Lodge Embarks on Major Expansion

By Kathy Gibbons

Joanna Nelson says it’s a great time to be promoted to general manager of the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth, which is embarking on a $80 million expansion project with ground breaking on Dec. 13.

Working for the organization over the past 25 years, Nelson started out in the front office, moved on to a sales coordinator position, became director of sales, and eventually added marketing to the mix. Other responsibilities then came along, overseeing the front desk and the lodge’s reservation department among them. Eventually, she became assistant general manager, and then general manager as of this past October. A certified meeting planner, she is a past president of the Michigan Chapter of Meeting Professionals International.

“How exciting for me to have this new promotion, and then we announced our big water park expansion,” she says. “We’re just so excited to break ground and share it with the world.”

With an anticipated opening of spring 2024, the project will dramatically expand the lodge’s water park amenities and family entertainment offerings with the creation of a new building that will be linked to the current Family Fun Center. Nelson says the project will add 20-plus new attractions, including water slides, a wave pool, and an adult swim-up bar. When completed, the additional space will make the Bavarian Inn Lodge Michigan’s largest indoor water park and family entertainment center, the company says, sized at more than 140,000 square feet.

“We’ve always had a family fun center component,” Nelson says. “We have 160 video games, an indoor mini golf course, lots of different family entertainment-type features … four indoor pools. We decided to add a couple waterslides in 2012. We have 360 rooms here so on weekends when we’re at full occupancy with a lot of people here, we need to give our guests more to do. We need to give them more fun features to keep them happy and coming back, but up to our level of competition within the industry as well. I’ve seen several phases of growth now for us and this is just the cherry on top.”

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