History of Vista Towers
Grand Lake of the Cherokees was created in 1942 with the building of the Grand Lake Dam. A small peninsula formed by the lake was used for many years by fisherman. The peninsula was given the name Monkey Island and by 1968 the 114 room fishing lodge had been named Shangri La Resort.
Charles Davis owned land on Monkey Island where his Angus cattle grazed. In 1968, he bought Shangri La Resort and began renovating the next year. A spacious main lobby area and an additional 14 rooms were added along with the 18 hole Blue Golf Course and Shangri La Estates. In 1976 the indoor tennis courts, Golden Oaks and 9 holes of the Gold Golf Course were also added.
By 1980 the oil boom in Oklahoma was beginning to take off and money was flowing faster than the oil men could spend it. Charles Davis decided to build an elegant high rise building on Shangri La Resort that would accommodate the high rollers who were spending much of their leisure time on the lake with their yachts.
Davis named the high rise building Vista Towers and hired the architectural firm, Griffith & Bonham, to design it. They broke ground in January 1981 and the building was complete by July 1982. Davis also built the convention center, racquetball courts and the second 9 holes of the Golf Course during that period.
Although the building structure of Vista Towers was similar to California building codes, Davis was never pleased with the outside appearance of the building. The brown panel exterior was not only unattractive; it later became a major maintenance problem.
Davis was required by Oklahoma banks to pre-sell at least 30% of the Vista Towers units before he would receive funding for building construction. Because of the oil boom, property sold fast. 4th floor units started at $180,000 and corner units started at $230,000, increasing an additional $5,000 per floor. Davis then offered the new owners a rental program allowing Shangri La to use the exclusive condos as part of their lodge room rental program.
Oklahoma Governor George Nigh hosted the 1982 National Governors Conference at Shangri-La with the Vista Towers as the main room attraction. The building was completed just in time for the governors to begin arriving. The FBI scanned the suites for bombs, fire doors were kept closed and an intercom system, still present on the lobby walls, provided extra security.
Between 1982 and 1985, Vista Towers became the social hub of Grand Lake where the Oklahoma rich and famous went to play. Every major businessman in Oklahoma owned Shangri La property. A newspaper article surveying “name recognition” by Oklahoma residences reported that Shangri La Resort was the second most recognized name behind Will Rogers. From 1980 until 1985, Shangri La Resort had a 90% occupancy rate from March until October and Vista Towers was always full.
Shangri La operated the restaurant on the 11th floor and named it the Top of The Towers. It was a fine dining restaurant that required reservations and formal attire. It was the place to go and be seen.
In 1985, the Oklahoma oil bust began and when taxes came due on the resort, Charles Davis filed for bankruptcy and in December 1988 a Tulsa bank took ownership. He had invested all his profit from the sale of the Vista Towers property into construction of the second 9 holes of the Gold Course, the conference center and racquetball courts.
The value of the Vista Towers condos also fell, bottoming out at $36,000 for an interior unit. Many of the homeowners, unable to make the monthly payments relinquished ownership and eventually the RTC ended up with many of the units. The restaurant also closed down, reopening shortly after under a private restaurateur in 1998-1999. Since then, it has been used for private parties requiring caterers to store and serve food that is brought in.
In 1985 Vista Towers management was turned over to Shangri La Realty. They moved into the property manager’s office on the 1st floor and oversaw the security and maintenance of the building. By the late 1990’s, the skin of the building began to deteriorate and water damage after heavy storms became a major problem. In 1999, the Board of Directors contracted to spend approximately $1,200,000 to cover the existing building skin, assessing each homeowner $10,000 to $14,000 per unit.
In January 1990, the resort was bought by Club Corp. By the early 1990’s, the resort was making a come back but Vista Towers condo values had not recovered. Units were still selling for $40,000 to $65,000. But in 2000, soon after the new skin was installed and the building construction was completed, the values began to rise.
The resort was sold to Highgate LLC in 1997. The driving range was moved to the west side of the resort and the lake shore property along the point was sold to building investors. In April 2005 the resort was sold to Peter Boylan’s Group who envisioned a new high rise resort. The old building was closed and bulldozed. The resort name was changed to The Peninsula but with the 2008 slump in the economy, plans to begin construction were delayed.
Vista Towers continues to improve the appearance and amenities within the building. The lobby and banquet facility have undergone major renovations. Additional cart storage has been added to the back of the building. Washers and dryers have been approved for individual units. A mail room was installed and additional cameras were added for increased security.
Vista Towers property values continue to recover. In 2006 the rental program between the homeowners and the Peninsula came to a close. Suddenly more permanent residents began moving in. By July of 2009, 39% of the owners lived in the building full time and the top selling price for a unit that summer was $225,000.
In the spring of 2010, Eddy Gibbs purchased The Peninsula. The name was changed back to Shangri-La Resort. Gibbs began extensive renovation of the golf course and a new club house was built. In the spring of 2016, plans were announced to build a 120 room hotel with casual dining, a spa, conference center and an impressive pool with a swim up bar for adults, plus a family side with splash pads for the kids. The new hotel is slated to open in late 2017.
People will always be attracted to Vista Towers with its magnificent views and rich history. Whether it’s the quiet country home or the weekend get-away, Vista Towers will always be a great place to come home to.