H&LA Development Update: Sandusky and Port Clinton, Ohio

H&LA’s recent research for a projects in Sandusky and Port Clinton, Ohio revealed some exciting new hospitality-related developments happening in the area. These developments will have an impact on tourism, employment, and the general economy in Sandusky and Port Clinton and the surrounding areas in 2021 and beyond. On-going pandemic concerns may alter timelines for some of these projects.

  • In July 2021, Cedar Fair announced plans to build a new 1,500-seat e-sports arena in Sandusky, adjacent to the existing Cedar Point Sports Center. Designed to capitalize on the growing popularity of competitive electronic gaming, this $28 million facility will include 200 gaming stations and a variety of food and beverage options, and it could also be used for concerts and other types of events. Construction on this project could start before the end of 2021, and it is expected to open in 2023.
  • Kalahari Resorts Sandusky recently introduced its new Underwater VR Experience, combining virtual-reality technology with an immersive water setting. The first attraction of its kind in the nation, the Underwater VR Experience is available for a separate fee and can accommodate 20 to 30 guests per hour. In 2020, the resort opened a new 18-hole miniature golf course and the new Sortino’s Italian Kitchen restaurant.
  • In response to unprecedented hiring challenges, Cedar Point increased the starting pay for its employees across all job categories to $20 per hour in 2021. This highly publicized move allowed the park to open on schedule and have a near-normal season after being forced to remain closed for the entire 2020 season due to the pandemic. However, it was problematic for other employers in the area, particularly smaller businesses, who struggled to offer competitive wages.
  • City officials in Port Clinton, Ohio, are currently moving forward with plans for a new waterfront walkway along the Portage River. This project calls for a 900-foot linear boardwalk stretching from Jefferson Street to the east jetty. This multimillion project will be funded in part by a $1.9 million grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives Program, awarded in 2017.
  • Ottawa County officials are currently working to secure state funding for improvements to State Route 53, one of the main roadways used by visitors. Initial plans call for the installation of two roundabouts and a widening of the road from State Route 2 to State Route 163, including a left-turn lane in each direction. This project will cost an estimated $15 million. As of our research date, no official timeline had been announced.
  • In 2021, the African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton completed a 22-acre expansion, allowing more space for exotic animal habitats. The park also added new animal exhibits to its walk-through safari, which is more similar to a traditional zoo experience. Among the new species introduced in 2021 are the African crested porcupine, two species of tortoise, the African sacred ibis, East African crowned crane, and white-handed gibbon.