Great Wolf Resorts in Talks to Build Water Park Resort in Orange County

John Jordan | August 2018

The popular Great Wolf Lodge Pocono Mountains opened in 2005.

GOSHEN—Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus has confirmed rumors that have been circulating for months that Great Wolf Resorts, Inc. is considering building a major indoor water park resort in southern Orange County.

Neuhaus, in a prepared release on Aug. 29, stated that the Madison, WI-based hospitality firm is considering a “handful” of potential sites in Orange County, including the former Camp LaGuardia men’s homeless shelter complex in Blooming Grove and Chester, for a Great Wolf Lodge. The resort would include a large hotel as well as an expansive indoor and outdoor water park.

Great Wolf Resorts, Inc. currently has 17 locations across North America with the closest location being the Great Wolf Lodge Pocono Mountains, which opened in 2005.

If a project moves forward, the venture would add a third major attraction along Route 17 in Orange County that already features the popular Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley and the $500-million Legoland New York theme park under construction in Goshen. Further up Route 17 is the more than $1-billion Resorts World Catskills Casino in Sullivan County and the adjoining Katrite Hotel & Indoor Water Park, which is currently under construction.

“I’ve had productive conversations about this project with leadership from Great Wolf Lodge throughout the past year. I’m optimistic that they will choose to build their 20th water park in Orange County,” Neuhaus said. “Great Wolf Lodge is a respected, family-friendly venue and will complement some of the wonderful tourist destinations that are here or are coming to the Hudson Valley. This park would be a major economic draw for the region and reinforce the important partnership between our tourism and economic development efforts.”

In a prepared statement, Murray Hennessy, CEO of Great Wolf Resorts, stated, “Great Wolf Resorts is experiencing a period of incredible growth and as we continue to expand our paw print with new resorts throughout the United States, we see the metro New York market as an area that offers tremendous future potential. Orange County is an ideal location for a potential Great Wolf Lodge with its close proximity to New York City and family-friendly environment. We’re looking forward to continued dialogue with local government officials, as well as future engagement with the local community.”

The Great Wolf Lodge waterpark and hotel would create about 500 jobs, according to the county executive.

The county has been frustrated thus far in attempts to redevelop the county-owned former Camp LaGuardia property for a variety of reasons. A proposal to build a mostly residential development on property in Chester and Blooming Grove by Scarsdale development firm Mountco Construction and Development Corp. was abandoned in 2016 when the firm could not secure necessary approvals to move the project forward.

In a prepared statement, Town of Blooming Grove Supervisor Rob Jeroloman said in connection with the Great Wolf Resorts project, “I think this would be a wonderful opportunity for Blooming Grove, Orange County and the Hudson Valley. It will further enhance our ability to attract tourists to a well-established, family friendly venue. Although this project is in the preliminary stages, we are optimistic.”

The Great Wolf Lodge water park resort would feature a hotel and attractions, including ropes courses, arcade games, and other family activities. Great Wolf Lodge also offers MagiQuest, a mystical adventure game in which players use interactive magic wands to discover relics and runes needed to defeat goblins and dragons.

Great Wolf Lodge also offers a number of restaurant options, including Barnwood, a new farm-to-fork restaurant concept.

While the cost and scope of the project was not released, Great Wolf Resorts on its website states that the typical Great Wolf Lodge hotel would feature a range of 250 to 600 guest suites. The indoor and outdoor water parks are typically around 75,000 square feet, and total indoor development areas are approximately 430,000 square feet. Maximum building heights equal 82 feet to 98 feet with variations based on mid-rise or high-rise development, the company states on its website.

“The partnership between Great Wolf and Orange County was cemented when the Orange County Partnership, then Supervisor of the Town of Wallkill Dan Depew, Chairman of the Orange County Legislature Steve Brescia and then Director of Tourism Susan Hawvermale, along with other business leaders, flew out to Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin in April 2015 to meet with Great Wolf representatives to entice them to come to Orange County,” said Maureen Halahan, president and CEO of the Orange County Partnership.
Halahan said she is pleased that Orange County has continued negotiations since then that have led to their continued interest in building a park in Orange County.

The handful of sites most likely include properties that were floated as possible casino development sites during the competition several years ago that eventually led New York State to select the Sullivan County site that is now home to Resorts World Catskills complex.

Another potential site, according to a published report in the Middletown Times-Herald Record could be the Greens at Chester property adjacent to the existing Whispering Hills condominium along Route 17 in Chester. Land has been cleared for a proposed 431-unit residential development on the more than 100-acre parcel there.

 

 

 

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth