Izatys – So Many Options
By R.J. Smiley
The argument has raged for over 90 years. What is the true identity of Izatys Resort on the south end of beautiful Mille Lacs Lake or as others say, “on the south end of the Dead Sea.”
When asked the question, “How would you define Izatys?” General manager, Jason Tolette responded, “In my opinion, Izatys is a family resort, with all the condo and timeshares on the property, we must cater to the entire family. But if you asked golf course Superintendent, Steve Schumacher, he would tell you that golf drives the traffic to the resort. If you asked the people at Cabelas, that will host the MWC (Masters Walleye Circuit) National Team Championship, they would tell you that Izatys is a fishing resort. On the other hand, if you asked award-winning chef, Kevin Aho, he would tell you that, “Without great food the resort would be in trouble. So, you tell me.” Thus the debate continues.
Izatys Is A Family Resort
The reason Izatys is a family resort is that over the years the collection of various owners has added about every amenity that they could think of to attract customers to the resort. The swimming pool and various non-fishing lake activities are still the most popular. No matter your age Izatys has something for you. Izatys is a family resort.
Izatys Is A Fishing Resort
When Izatys was first opened in 1922, it was nothing but a fishing camp on the south end of the lake. Customers would drive to Mille Lacs, rent a boat at Izatys and row, yes row that boat, to the nearest “hot spot” and catch walleyes until they were tired of catching them. Then the would hurry back to the Twin Cities before their fish spoiled. The winters were even better because the ice gave the fishermen access to more areas of fish and their catch would not spoil. The owners, the Dubbs’ family, ran the resort and made many improvements. Over the years they built cabins, dredged a very large marina where customers could rent boats, enjoy trouble free fishing with an experienced captain on a launch or in later years dock their own boat in the marina. The Dubbs’ family did create a poorly maintained 9-hole golf course, but it only served as a diversion from fishing during the mid-day heat when the trophy walleyes are less active.
Then came Edina developer, Chip Glazier, who made major improvements to the resort. With Mille Lacs going through a metamorphosis from a walleye only lake to a lake where anglers can chase record muskies, northern, smallmouth bass as well as the huge walleyes that have made the lake is famous. With one of the best marinas on the lake and a new 40-person launch, Izatys can accommodate any angler. Fishing guide, Matt Treno, who grew up on the lake, has started a Wednesday evening fishing league this year; a compliment to the golf leagues. If having a variety of fishing options makes a resort a fishing resort, Izatys is truly a fishing resort.
Izatys Is A Golf Resort
The resort became the modern definition of “Golf Resort” when Glaser purchased the property in 1987. His development plan for the resort included two, 18-hole golf courses, hundreds of condominiums and a hotel and conference center that could handle the big corporate outings for their employees and guests. Glaser, an avid golfer, brought in The Dye Design Group to build the first of the two golf courses. Later Glaser commissioned John Harbottle to blend the Dye 18-holes into two, new courses. Harbottle was familiar with the property, he had done the design work for the first course when he worked for Dye Design and had since opened his own design company. The two courses, The Sanctuary and Black Brook, enjoyed a great deal of notoriety hosting the annual Boys and Girls Minnesota State High School Golf Tournament. Black Brook, the better of the two courses, was the site of the Minnesota Section of the PGA Championship for three years. Izatys was also the venue for several Minnesota Golf Association Championships.
The 150 yard, par-3, fourteenth hole on Black Brook might be the most photographed hole in Minnesota. The full length of the hole runs along the boulder-laced shoreline of Mille Lacs Lake, with views that run for 20 miles to the northwest.
With the real estate project sold out, in 2004 Glaser sold the resort to an investment group. Then, the economy turned sour and the resort went through a foreclosure and the courses were closed. The bank was savvy enough to bring Jason Tollette, a member of the golfing Tollette family, back to manage the resort. Jason and his wife, Sherry, were previous managers under Glazier. For the past three years Izatys has operated only Black Brook while building the business.
With bookings near capacity and Black Brook in great shape, Superintendent, Schumacher and Tolette will open the original Dye nine on Memorial Day weekend. With a driving range, a 3-hole executive course and 27 holes of championship golf, Izatys is a golf resort.
Izatys Is A Fine Dining Restaurant
Two years ago Tolette, enticed previous Izatys’ Executive Chef, Kevin Aho back to Izatys. Working together, Aho and Tolette have the restaurant operation better that ever; and people are traveling from Brainerd and St. Cloud just to have dinner. This past winter, even with the lack of snow and ice, food and beverage sales were up 300% over the previous winter.
Chef, Kevin Aho was recently awarded the 2011 Certified Hereford Beef’s Distinguished Chef awarded. He was selected from more that 10,000 restaurants nationwide. Aho celebrated winning the national award by dishing out Beef Carpaccio, Steak and Blue Salad, Filet Veloute, Sirloin Duxelle and Steaks and Eggs Oscar for friends and associates who had a hand in selecting him for the award.
The food and beverage operation is extremely broad based at Izatys. Serving everything from a great hot dog at the turn to fine steaks to rival those at the finest steak houses in the Twin Cities. Yes Izatys is a fine dining restaurant!
So you may be the final judge. But the only way for you to get a vote is to visit this multi-faceted resort that has been an institution on Mille Lacs Lake for over 90 years. No matter what your interest, Izatys means fun and what ever its mood; gigantic Mille Lacs Lake is stunning.