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New Oglebay Park CEO promises $8M in upgrades

Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo by Alec Berry New Wheeling Park Commission CEO Stephen Hilliard, right, addresses the Wheeling Rotary Club Tuesday, detailing forthcoming park improvements.
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo by Alec Berry
New Wheeling Park Commission CEO Stephen Hilliard, right, addresses the Wheeling Rotary Club Tuesday, detailing forthcoming park improvements.

WHEELING, W.Va. — New Wheeling Park Commission CEO Stephen Hilliard outlined about $8 million worth of improvements planned for Oglebay and Wheeling parks as he introduced himself to Wheeling Rotary Club members Tuesday.

That list includes a $5.5 million renovation of Oglebay Park’s Wilson Lodge, a new fitness center at the resort and a new condenser and compressor to support the Wheeling Park ice rink.

“It doesn’t sound like much,” he said of the condenser, “but it’s $600,000.”

Hilliard’s interest is in revisiting under-utilized features of both Oglebay and Wheeling parks and revamping them. He says the parks, while appreciated locally, don’t energize residents as much as they could because they’ve become too familiar with the facilities.

He wants to emphasize Oglebay’s hiking trails, for example, or offer behind-the-scenes programming specific to the Good Zoo.

Another idea of Hilliard’s is to embrace Oglebay’s agricultural roots. The park’s namesake, Earl W. Oglebay, used the land to experiment with new farming techniques, and Hilliard said developing this idea today may appeal to millenials and draw their attention to the park.

Since taking over from retired park commission CEO Doug Dalby in November, Hilliard said he has been “turning rocks” to improve existing processes.

Hilliard’s resume is lined with hospitality industry positions. He started as a desk clerk at the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire in 1973 at the age of 18, later returning in 2012 to be its managing director. In between, he worked with the St. Joe Co. in Florida, a developer of resort communities, moving through its hierarchy to become its senior vice president.

Hilliard sees this latest career move as a welcoming one. Wheeling, he said, is a place with historical depth that gives him a sense of place. He said the area has already seen so much, yet believes it can only see more.

One club member asked Hilliard if there are any plans to add a zipline at Oglebay. Hilliard said such facilities are expensive to build, and many other parks have them. Instead, he wants to offer things unique to Wheeling.

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