State officials were on hand at the Lake Murray Lodge Monday to officially kick-off a multi-million dollar project which will enhance the park and drive tourism.
Following remarks, Gov. Mary Fallin, along with state tourism officials and local legislators Sen. Frank Simpson (R-Ardmore) and Reps. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore) and Tommy Hardin (R-Madill), broke ground on the new lodge. The lodge, which will cost $15 million, is expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete.
“We are glad to see our work starting to bear fruit,” Simpson said. “We worked hard on legislation and it was rewarding and exciting to see the beginning of this project. We knew it would be a tremendous economic benefit to Carter, Love and Marshall counties and southern Oklahoma. Rep. Ownbey, Rep. Hardin and I are proud to be part of this.”
Legislation for the lodge was approved during the 2012 legislative session.  
Fallin, who served as chairman for the tourism commission for 12 years as Lt. Governor, credited Simpson, Ownbey and Hardin for their work in providing innovative thinking for the project to come to fruition.
“We have been talking about redoing the lodge for a long time,” she said. “It would not have been possible without the legislative help of Sen. Simpson, Rep. Ownbey and Rep. Hardin.
“These guys provided the leadership and sold it to their fellow legislators.”
The funding for the project will come from the State Park Trust Fund, which is benefited by oil and gas royalties. Fallin referred to the funding solution as an innovative step. She also said a new lodge would boost tourism at the state park, which is the largest and oldest in Oklahoma.
“It will bring in more tourists,” she said. “It’s all about creating jobs and bringing more money to the local economy.”
Fallin said the park brings in $3.5 million annually to the economy. The new lodge will have 32 new rooms and the rooms in the current lodge will be refurbished to drive additional tourism dollars.
Kris Marek, Director of State Parks, said there have also been renovations recently done at Beavers Bend, Sequoyah and Roman Nose State Parks, but this the most extensive project for the state.
“We are taking advantage and realizing the potential of this property,” she said.
Fallin said the lodge would be a wonderful addition not only for local residents and Oklahomans, but friends from Texas and the surrounding states.
“This is an exciting day to be able to break ground and it will be an exciting addition to southern Oklahoma and the citizens of Oklahoma,” she said.