The Newark lodge gets a major facelift.

Anyone who was a fan of the indoor waterpark craze of the ’90s and early ’00s will likely remember Coco Key Water Resort in Newark. Part of the Cherry Valley Hotel, the facility was a great spot for family staycations … but not so much for weddings.

That’s why, late in 2017, the hotel’s new owners—Widewaters Hotels and Wexford Lodging Advisors—decided to shutter the park, renovate the hotel and reopen with a new vibe.

Cherry Valley Hotel shut its doors to the public just after New Year’s Day, 2018, and is reopening in phases this year. The first phase opened 60 guest rooms and some meeting spaces in September; the hotel now is operating with 160 of its 200 total rooms, with plans to have the final touches completed by spring 2020. But this renovation is more than just a fresh coat of paint and updated fixtures.

“For many years, the lodge was a traditional lodge. It was hunter green; it was the picture of the English rider with the hat, with the hound, running and chasing the fox. That was the artwork, everywhere—greens and golds and maroons,” says Patrick Beaver, director of sales and marketing for the hotel. “We wanted to keep the good parts and get rid of [everything else], but we wanted to go a step up from ‘lodge,’ separate ourselves from Salt Fork, from Deer Creek, from Mohican, and just give it a little bit more flair.”

That explains the intriguing design aesthetic of the remodeled building, which features original stone and wood details that are complemented by architectural chandeliers and modern but comfortable furniture. Dual-sided stone fireplaces in the lobby feel right at home next to a console table made from a tree’s root system, for example, and a light, airy color palette prevents any space from feeling too stuffy.

When the $20 million project is complete, the rustic-chic resort will feature 60,000 square feet of event space that includes the Ohio Event Center—formerly known as Coco Key. There’s also multiple on-site dining options: Craftsman Kitchen & Terrace, a standard farm-to-table restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner (with brunch plans in the works), plus a coffee shop, a lobby bar, the O&E Taphouse, in-room dining and in-house catering services for larger events. Both Craftsman and O&E are open to the public in addition to being rentable spaces for private events.

A signature feature of the 16-acre property is the fact that it has its own arboretum—the only hotel in the country with such a distinction, says Beaver. The stunning courtyard was designed by Linda Reynolds of nearby Dawes Arboretum; Reynolds has stayed on as groundskeeper for nearly 20 years since.

Of course, the courtyard is not without its own improvements. Ringed by guest rooms, the lobby and the pool area, the courtyard features cherry trees for which the property is named, as well as water and fire features, lawn games (giant Jenga, anyone?) and a gazebo that stretches out over the pond.

The indoor pool and Jacuzzi area, directly across the courtyard from the lobby, becomes an indoor-outdoor space in warmer months when its floor-to-ceiling windows open up. Next to the pool is a game room, with another stone fireplace, large TV and room for activities. It’s a popular space for morning-after events, Beaver notes.

Also of note is the on-site, full-service spa, which is expected to open by March 2020. Massages, facials, wraps, manicures and pedicures are all on the menu—perfect for a little pre-wedding pampering—as are updos and blowouts.

Similarly luxurious are the guest rooms, which all feature at least one king-sized bed. (Suites and executive suites also have pull-out sofa beds and/or an additional king bed.) The rooms are spacious—the smallest clocks in around 400 square feet and the largest is able to accommodate up to 10—and feature contemporary décor, a patio or balcony, soaking tubs, beautifully backlit vanity mirrors and Beekman 1802 bath amenities.

For weddings, Cherry Valley features event spaces to accommodate any size group. The cozy Library features a stone fireplace, deer antler chandelier, floor-to-ceiling windows and direct access to a second, intimate courtyard—perfect for a wedding of roughly 40 guests. The main courtyard’s gazebo can serve as a lovely ceremony spot, as can any of the ballrooms, which can be sized appropriately to your needs thanks to movable wall panels.

The real jewel of the event spaces, however, is the Ohio Event Center. Its large scale can accommodate several hundred guests, and a 5,000-square-foot kitchen is planned for the space as well. It’s perfect for kosher reception meals, says catering director Lynda Ciminello, because it will operate independently from the hotel’s main kitchen.

Cherry Valley’s dining, however, is not to be missed. Executive chef Robert Olinger has carefully crafted a menu featuring locally sourced ingredients wherever possible—Ohio-raised beef, pork and chicken; produce grown in Newark and baked goods made in Central Ohio. Items that can’t be sourced locally, like the charcuterie plate’s 26-year Parmesan or pleistoceno prosciutto, are imported directly.

Dietary accommodations are a breeze, says Ciminello, thanks to Olinger’s creative flair: He recently planned an entirely vegetarian event with nary a Portobello steak to be found.

“Because everything is handmade here in the kitchen—because Chef is right here, in the back, versus an offsite caterer that if they show up without it, they don’t have it … even a list-minute request [can be accommodated],” she notes.

Together, the updates combine to create a weekend getaway that doesn’t require plane tickets or hours of driving.

“We want to be a destination,” Beaver says. From the looks of progress so far, Cherry Valley Hotel is well on its way to becoming just that.