Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Theme Parks and Destination Hotels

The spokesperson for developer Bruce Holland told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this week in a story published yesterday that Legoland may not be in the cards for Marion.
...landing a LegoLand amusement park — one of the much-touted possibilities for the Glen Carbon site — is probably off the table, as those businesses tend to seek more urban settings. "That seems less likely in Marion," said [Rebecca] Rausch.

A more likely possibility, Rausch said, would be a venue like Cabela's at Village West in Kansas City, Kan., a hunting and outdoors store and museum, or similar large-scale venues that won't directly compete with existing Marion-area businesses.

While it certainly isn't a dead idea — Legoland certainly isn't the first theme park proposed for Southern Illinois — the others parts of the proposed destination plan shouldn't be overlooked.

Despite the story set to be published in tomorrow's paper that Great Wolf Resorts may or may not be looking at this project, such as facility would offer a tremendous boost to the region's tourism economy.

If you're not familiar with the chain, Great Wolf promotes itself as "North America's Premier Family Entertainment Brand".

Their first quarter report issued yesterday describes their resorts as "family-oriented destination facilities that generally feature 300 – 600 rooms and a large indoor entertainment area measuring 40,000 – 100,000 square feet. The all-suite properties offer a variety of room styles, arcade/game rooms, fitness rooms, themed restaurants, spas, supervised children’s activities and other amenities."

The main feature consists of a 40,000 square feet indoor water park.

So far they have 12 resorts with none closer than the Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin; Kansas City, Kansas; and Kings Island theme park at Mason, Ohio.

The latest-announced resort will be one in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania adjacent to a major shopping center. The company signed a letter of intent to license their brand and take a minority stake in the new venture.

A smaller version of a Great Wolf Resort is Illinois' first indoor waterpark — Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort just outside Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois. Its waterwork is 24,000 square feet and their three-story lodge offers 92 over-sized guest rooms. In recent years they've added vacation villas and cabins to the mix as well.

I've never been inside, but I drove by it a few years ago while attending a conference at Starved Rock. The parking lot was packed and it looked a whole lot more fun than the tired CCC-era lodge and generally crappy cabin I was staying in.

[To be fair to the concessionaires of Starved Rock, I've been told DNR has updated those cabins since I stayed there. They needed to be, they were a disgrace to the state.]

As far as I can tell there are only three other indoor water parks, all in northern Illinois - CoCo Key Water Resort at Rockford, Key Lime Cove's Lost Paradise at Gurnee and the Mayan Adventure at Holiday Inn Chicago-Elmhurst.

Missouri only has one indoor waterpark and that's another CoCo Key Water Resort at Kansas City.

The closest one in Indiana is Big Splash Adventure at French Lick and I can't find any indoor parks in Kentucky.

Marion offers a good location with little competition. Combined with golf at Kokopelli and baseball at Rent One Park there's a core group right there, particularly if the developers can attract Cabela's or Bass Pro Shops, which have already been mentioned as possible tenants in the development.

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