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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Great Wolf Lodge ‘topped out’; opening set for June 15, 2025

    People watch as a crane lifts the beam to place on the roof of the building during the topping out ceremony of Great Wolf Lodge at Mashantucket on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Aerial view of Great Wolf Lodge under construction at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)
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    Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, right, signs the beam during the topping out ceremony of Great Wolf Lodge at Mashantucket Wednesday, June 12, 2024. State Sen. Cathy Osten, second from right, approaches to sign the beam. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Construction site of the Great Wolf Lodge on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    From right, Merrill Reels, treasurer of the Mashantucket Tribe, Johnathon Vallardes, of the Mashantucket tribe and table games assistant shift manager, and Herbert Boyd, vice chairman of Mashantucket Elder Council, watch as a crane lifts the beam to place on the roof of the building during the topping out ceremony of Great Wolf Lodge at Mashantucket Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Aerial view of Great Wolf Lodge under construction at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)
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    People watch as a crane lifts the beam to place on the roof of the building during the topping out ceremony of Great Wolf Lodge at Mashantucket on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Steve Jacobsen, vice president of development with Great Wolf Resorts, speaks during the topping out ceremony of Great Wolf Lodge at Mashantucket on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Mashantucket ― A Great Wolf Resorts executive announced Wednesday the $300 million waterpark resort the company’s been developing next to Foxwoods Resort Casino will open June 15, 2025.

    “Secretly, we’re hoping to move that date up,” Steve Jacobsen, Great Wolf’s vice president of development, said, admitting the announcement could put some pressure on Turner, the project’s contractor.

    “The only one putting more pressure on me is my 9-year-old daughter,” Chad McCullough, vice president of Turner’s Connecticut office, quipped.

    The good-natured exchange, which took place during remarks that preceded a traditional “topping out” ceremony on the construction site opposite Foxwoods’ Grand Pequot Tower, spoke volumes about Great Wolf’s target audience: families with kids.

    Standing at a podium in the future lobby of the resort’s 549-room hotel, Jacobsen addressed an audience that included Mashantucket Pequot tribal leaders and most of southeastern Connecticut’s state legislative delegation.

    He said Great Wolf would start taking reservations Thursday.

    “Today, a really important milestone,” he said.

    With most of the Great Wolf Lodge at Mashantucket’s shell in place, work will now proceed rapidly on the interior, Jacobsen said, including the 91,000-square-foot indoor waterpark and a 61,000-square-foot family entertainment center.

    When finished, he said, the resort will provide more than 600 full- and part-time jobs and stimulate the local economy well beyond Mashantucket.

    He said Great Wolf will be hiring for positions ranging from lifeguards to management. “And we promote from within,” he said. “If we hire you, we try to keep you.”

    Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, recalled how Jacobsen had reached out to him in April 2020 in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic that caused Foxwoods to temporarily shut down.

    “He said, ‘You still interested in Great Wolf?’” Butler said.

    The Mashantuckets and Great Wolf had partnered on a plan to develop a waterpark on tribe-owned, non-reservation land along Route 214 in Ledyard in the mid-2000s. Then the Great Recession struck, scuttling the plan. The would-be partners also discussed waterpark projects in 2010 and 2014, before Jacobsen joined Great Wolf.

    “I literally negotiated the deal during COVID without ever stepping on the land,” Jacobsen said.

    Great Wolf Lodge at Mashantucket is located on reservation land Great Lodge is leasing from the tribe.

    Jason Guyot, Foxwoods’ president and chief executive officer, said the Great Wolf resort promises to be a boon to Foxwoods and “a huge driver for the region with benefits for Mystic, Stonington and Westerly.”

    “It’s a perfect fit between Boston and New York. It adds a whole new element,” he said. “It gives families options they’ve never had before.”

    State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said the resort will help Connecticut capture tourism revenue it’s now losing to neighboring states.

    “It’s great that it’s in our backyard,” she said.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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