Post Oak Paradox

A newcomer headed to Post Oak Lodge will need the detailed directions found on its Web site to navigate to the secluded campus northwest of Tulsa in the rolling Osage Hills.
But, while negotiating the winds and turns, they will soon discover it is a mere 10-minute drive from the heart of downtown.
Post Oak Lodge, 5323 W. 31st St. North, exemplifies “City Close, Country Quiet” in a way that makes it ideal not only for corporate retreats and training sessions but unique in its market as well.
As a result, the facility, though not widely known, has received such demand that its operators plan to double the number of rooms and add new meeting facilities, and, in time, a destination restaurant and a stand-alone spa with an unmatched view of the Tulsa skyline.
“We already are bumping up against the fact that we need more rooms,” said Jim L. Barnard, chief executive officer. “We have such a small number that it is hard to get people in and out of here when they need to be here and when they want to be here.”
A Place to Retreat
With its 11,000-SF Executive Conference Center and 60 rooms in two executive lodges and six smaller buildings, Post Oak has become a favorite destination of corporate entities like QuikTrip and U.S. Cellular for leadership development, team building and training.
The secluded facility is open to the public for scheduled events. Situated on 1,200 acres of Persimmon Ridge, including Holmes Peak, the highest point in five counties, Post Oak Lodge has some of the best views of Tulsa, providing a scenic setting for weddings, reunions, anniversaries and retreats.
Cuisine options ranging from buffets to plated dinners to outdoor barbecue menus at the facility’s pole barn, a ropes course, 24-hour fitness center, outdoor swimming pool and hot tub area, wireless Internet and scenic grounds and trails round out the amenities.
Preserving Its Character
Purchased in 2003 by Persimmon Ridge LLC, a group of Tulsa businesspeople led by attorney and rancher Gentner F. Drummond, principal shareholder and manager, Post Oak Lodge was originally Our Lady of Osage Hills, a retreat of the Catholic Diocese of Oklahoma. It was purchased by the Williams Cos. in 1997, and Williams renovated the campus into the world-class Williams Learning Center.
Drummond said his group of investors biought the property because of its beauty, heritage and potential for development in Osage County and northwest Tulsa. The group donated the property for the adjacent Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden.
Drummond said the ownership group is committed to protecting the elements that give Post Oak Lodge and the surrounding property its character.
“It is not widely advertised, and it’s not a widely-known facility,” he said. “It is a part of Tulsa that nobody sees. When the church retreat or the wedding party or the corporate training group comes out they are within five miles of Tulsa and yet they feel as thought they are sequestered by a hundred miles. We have to maintain that because that is what makes it unique.”
Plans to Expand
Barnard, with more than 20 years in hospitality and construction project management, joined the facility a year ago as plans for upgrades and expansions were being developed.
While the timing for upgrades and additions to the campus are delayed pending an economic upturn, Barnard said plans call for starting a $1.5 million renovation in the next 18 months or so.
“It doesn’t really need ‘renovation;’ I guess the word would be ‘brightening.’ The small lodges will be upgraded dramatically to where they are very executive in style,” he said.
That work will be followed with the addition of two 2,200-SF meeting facilities built behind the bigger lodges and then a couple of large buildings to double the existing overnight capacity.
“They will be the next generation of our sleeping facilities,” he said. “They will probably have between 32 and 36 rooms each and will just be a newer version of what we have done here so they will fit into our campus.”
When that work is nearing completion – Barnard estimated two to two and a half years out – the campus will look at expanding the leisure side of its business, starting with a restaurant.
“It will definitely need to be a destination, because whether people spend the night or not, you are going to want to drive to get here,” he said. “It will probably be something along the lines of a tiered facility that will overlook downtown Tulsa, and there won’t be anything like it.”
Extended plans also call for a stand-alone spa and possibly a number of casita-style cabins, Barnard said.
“We have barely touched the surface of what our capabilities are here,” he said.

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