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WILLIMASBURG, VA-Developers of Great Wolf Lodge, a planned full-service family resort with indoor waterpark, have taken a step toward realization of the new destination with the recent start of construction activity. Madison, WI-headquartered Great Lakes Cos. plans to spend $50 million to complete the entertainment facility, which is expected to open to visitors in spring 2005.

Situated on an 80-acre parcel at the intersection of I-64 and Highway 199, Great Wolf Lodge will occupy the same county, York, as the nearly two-decade-old Anheuser-Busch waterpark known as Water Country USA. With 380,000 sf of space, the new four-story lodge will house 301 suites, as well as the 70,000-sf indoor water facility, a 7,500-sf arcade, 6,500 sf of meeting space, two restaurants, a 5,000-sf gift shop, and a 2,300-sf spa and fitness center that will be open to guests and the public. “We are confident that travelers, as well as the local community, will respond with enthusiasm to a high-quality resort which combines a unique lodging experience with exciting indoor and outdoor water attractions and many other amenities,” says Great Lakes Cos. senior vice president of sales and marketing Eric Lund.

Lund’s assertion that the property will likely be a success has some backing. “The growth in demand for the indoor waterpark resorts parallels changes in American culture in which more families want to spend increased time with their children including family vacations,” David J. Sangree, director of hospitality consulting and a principal with US Realty Consultants, attests in a 2003 International Society of Hospitality Consultants report. “We project continued development of indoor waterpark resorts in the northern US, as they offer an attractive year-round leisure opportunity for families and attractive investment returns for developers.” For Great Lakes Cos., the development will be the sixth family resort, and the third Great Wolf Lodge property in its portfolio.

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