LaGRANGE — Great Wolf Resorts released more details Thursday about its upcoming indoor water park slated to open off Whitesville Road near Interstate 85 in 2018.
”Great Wolf Lodge Georgia will be a first-class destination resort, providing families with nearly 500,000 square feet of entertainment offerings and lodging amenities to enjoy, all under one roof,” the company said in a statement. “The centerpiece of the resort will be more than 93,000 square feet of indoor water park fun.”
The resort — with its 456 hotel rooms — will also include a 40,000 square foot ropes course, a miniature golf course, bowling alley and other entertainment. In-house dining options will also be provided. For a measure of size, a football field, including the end zones, is 57,600 square feet.
“Great Wolf Lodge Georgia will feature many of the amenities and activities our guests know and love, as well as several new experiences exclusive to this resort,” Rubén Rodríguez, Great Wolf Resorts’ CEO, said in a statement. “As our company continues to expand, we could not think of a more perfect place than the location we found in LaGrange and we look forward to opening our doors to guests in just two short years.”
Finding LaGrange was a cumbersome process for the Madison, Wisconsin-based resort chain, which operates 14 other resorts across North America. In 2015, the company initially planned to build Great Wolf Georgia in Peachtree City, but the City Council denied Great Wolf’s rezoning bid. Great Wolf had planned to spend $90 million to renovate an existing conference center on a 38.4 acre site, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The plan didn’t sit well with Peachtree City residents, who thought the resort would encroach on subdivisions and homes surrounding the site.
Peachtree City’s loss is Troup County’s gain, though, LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said this week.
“Great Wolf’s investment in our city is very significant,” he said in a statement. “This resort will create hundreds of jobs and attract nearly half a million visitors a year to LaGrange. In conjunction with our other tourism attractions, we believe that Great Wolf will help make LaGrange a travel destination for the Southeast.”
He added that Great Wolf Georgia will help expand hospitality-sector jobs, branching out from LaGrange’s strong industrial base. The resort will also buy its utilities from the city, using energy to keep its indoor water park at 84 degrees year round.
Gov. Nathan Deal also chimed in Thursday, saying more economic development could follow Great Wolf Georgia.
“We are excited that Great Wolf Lodge has chosen LaGrange to build their newest resort,” the governor said in a statement. “Creating more than 600 jobs and investing more than $150 million, the economic impact from the Great Wolf Lodge Georgia operation will be felt immediately, and we anticipate additional investment in the region as operations ramp up.”
A 16,000 square foot conference centered financed and owned by the city of LaGrange is also planned for the Great Wolf site.
A $17 million taxpayer-backed bond will pay for the center’s construction, and the bond will be repaid using a portion of the hotel-motel tax generated at Great Wolf. The city will own the center, but lease it to Great Wolf for $10 a year for a period of not more than 50 years. The Development Authority of LaGrange approved the bond issue in October.
The hotel-motel tax will also help finance marketing the resort. Under the agreement, Great Wolf will get 31.25 percent of the hotel-motel tax revenues to market the resort. The resort must be marketed to include “LaGrange,” and city officials get some say in how the city of LaGrange will be presented in marketing.
Property tax abatements will offset costs. For 15 years, Great Wolf will get a break on the 40-acre property’s tax bill. In year one, the company will pay 10 percent of the assessed property taxes, with the bill growing by 5 percent every year until the 15 years has passed.
The deal does not include any tax concessions that would affect school board revenues.
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.