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MADISON, WI-As the largest water park resort hotel owner looks to go global, Kimberly Schaefer, COO, has been promoted to president of Great Wolf Resorts Inc., based here. She will lead the company into efforts to expand the company’s 12 properties to more international markets, using a new method of licensing instead of direct ownership in this down economy, says a firm spokesman.

Schaefer has been with the company for 11 years, said Randy Churchey, interim CEO, in a statement. There was not previously a president of the company. Former CEO John Emery resigned in May. The company has consistently recorded losses, including a net loss of $2.3 million in the first quarter and $4.1 million in the second quarter.

The spokesman tells GlobeSt.com that the firm hopes to stem losses by either forming joint ventures or taking on license deals on all future projects. “This is a shift in our development strategy, most of our properties are company-owned,” he says. “With the current capital and credit markets, this is a more viable thing to do, as opposed to building new facilities from the ground up. Kim will lead this effort.”

The firm has 12 properties open, including 11 Great Wolf Resorts and one Blue Harbor Resort. The properties are broken down into two styles: Generation One resorts, 300 rooms or less, are mostly in the Midwest, and have been struggling due to regional economic difficulties and competition; while Generation Two resorts, about 400 rooms or more and newer, are mostly on the East Coast, and have been seeing more than 70% occupancy.

A new Great Wolf is about two-thirds done in the newest city to get one of the water parks, in Concord, NC. The spokesman tells GlobeSt.com that the firm has letters of intent signed for three more properties: a joint venture with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal nation for a resort at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, a resort at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN and a resort on the shores of Lake Lanier near Atlanta. However, company officials have said the economy has affected the projected development start for these properties. “We do not intend…to enter into any new significant capital commitments under our development program until the capital markets stabilize,” said Churchey during the company’s second quarter result reporting on Aug. 5.

The spokesman says his firm does expect business will improve as more families cut short large vacation plans. “People are still unlikely to sacrifice their family vacations, but they’re more likely to take them closer to home. We’re perfect for that,” he says.

Expansion plans continue for the company, however, the spokesman tells GlobeSt.com. “Our development team is exploring 20 to 30 sites at any given time,” he says. The new plans include a bigger push for international locations, he says. The firm has one property somewhat outside the US, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, at the New York border. This property is licensed by Ripley Entertainment. “We feel that our core brand concept translates well into the global marketplace,” he says.

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