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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    Tribe, Great Wolf seal deal for Mashantucket water park resort

    Mashantucket — Great Wolf Lodge at Mashantucket, the indoor water park resort to be built adjacent to Foxwoods Resort Casino, will include 550 hotel rooms, the smallest of which will sleep a family of six, Great Wolf Resorts executives said here Monday.

    They said they expect the $300 million facility to open in 2024 and attract some 600,000 visitors a year from within a six-and-a-half hour drive. It’ll feature Great Wolf's signature 90,000-square-foot indoor water park, an outdoor pool, a family play area, an interactive adventure park and other family-themed amenities.

    Jason Guyot, Foxwoods’ president and chief executive officer, said it will “redefine what being a resort destination means.”

    Guyot, joined by Rodney Butler, the casino-owning Mashantucket Pequot Tribe’s chairman, and other tribal officials welcomed Great Wolf executives to the Mashantucket reservation, where they toured the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center before attending a private signing ceremony in the casino’s Vue 24 lounge.

    The Great Wolf contingent flew Monday from Chicago, where Great Wolf is headquartered.

    Butler and Murray Hennessy, Great Wolf’s CEO, exchanged gifts and signed a deal they said was years in the making. Later, Hennessy and Steve Jacobsen, Great Wolf’s vice president of domestic development, provided details of the Mashantucket project for the first time. It was announced six weeks ago during the tribe's 30th anniversary celebration.

    “This is a new design for us,” Hennessy said. “We have 19 (lodges) in North America and we’re taking the best (features) of the best.”

    He said Great Wolf has a lodge in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, as well as "four to five more in the pipeline" in the United States and one under construction in the United Kingdom.

    Great Wolf’s newest facility is in the northern California city of Manteca, its June 2021 opening delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A 20th Great Wolf Lodge featuring 700 hotel rooms is under construction in Perryville, Md., near Baltimore.

    The closest Great Wolf facility to Mashantucket is in Fitchburg, Mass., the only one in New England.

    “We knew we wanted to build in this part of the world,” said Jacobsen, who rekindled talk of a Mashantucket facility in a 2020 email to Butler during the pandemic.

    “Are you still interested?” Butler recalled Jacobsen asking.

    The Mashantuckets previously engaged with Great Wolf in 2007, with the partners pursuing an indoor water park development on tribe-owned, non-reservation land along Route 214 in Ledyard. The project was abandoned in the face of the Great Recession.

    Jacobsen said Great Wolf and the tribe also discussed a project in 2010 and again in 2014.

    Butler said the “water park concept” has been part of the tribe’s vision since Foxwoods opened.

    While the earlier Route 214 plan required land-use approvals from town officials, the current one involves no such process. Great Wolf is providing most of the capital investment in the project and is leasing the real estate from the tribe. Jacobsen said construction is expected to begin this summer and will take 22 to 24 months to complete. Some blasting on the site could begin earlier, he said.

    The resort will be built between Foxwoods’ Rainmaker entrance and the Pequot Outpost gas station/convenience store on Foxwoods Boulevard. Utility lines that serve the casino run under the site and will have to be moved, as will Trolley Line Boulevard, according to Jacobsen.

    The water park resort will take 450 parking spaces in Foxwoods' Rainmaker Garage for employees, he said.

    “What we’re coming to be part of is truly impressive,” Hennessy said, referring to Foxwoods and Mashantucket. “Everything here spells quality — and family.”

    “Eight to nine million people a year go through Great Wolf Resorts," he said. "It’s a good place for families.”

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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