Gurnee approves revenue deal for Great Wolf Lodge

  • This is KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort, near Grand Avenue and the Tri-State Tollway, just before it opened in 2009. The parent company of Madison, Wisconsin-based Great Wolf Lodge plans to buy and take over KeyLime Cove.

    This is KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort, near Grand Avenue and the Tri-State Tollway, just before it opened in 2009. The parent company of Madison, Wisconsin-based Great Wolf Lodge plans to buy and take over KeyLime Cove. Daily Herald file photo

  • Great Wolf Resorts Inc. is negotiating to take over the existing KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort near Grand Avenue and the Tri-State Tollway in Gurnee. This is Great Wolf's southern California resort.

    Great Wolf Resorts Inc. is negotiating to take over the existing KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort near Grand Avenue and the Tri-State Tollway in Gurnee. This is Great Wolf's southern California resort. Courtesy of Great Wolf Resorts Inc.

  • Great Wolf Resorts Inc. Director of Development Bryson Heezen appears before the Gurnee village board Monday night.

      Great Wolf Resorts Inc. Director of Development Bryson Heezen appears before the Gurnee village board Monday night. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/7/2017 3:27 PM

Gurnee village board trustees Monday night approved a deal that would provide up to $18 million for North America's largest family of indoor water park resorts to locate in town.

Under the revenue-sharing agreement, the Madison, Wisconsin-based parent company of Great Wolf Lodge would invest at least $65 million in new construction and renovation of Key Lime Cove Waterpark Resort after buying the property near Grand Avenue and the Tri-State Tollway. Village officials said the agreement is meant to facilitate the KeyLime sale to Great Wolf.

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Including the purchase, Great Wolf would spend at least $100 million to come to Gurnee, according to village documents. If Great Wolf Resorts Inc.'s pending deal to buy KeyLime Cove closes, the property would be closed for about a year for the makeover after high school spring breaks end.

As part of the proposed takeover of KeyLime Cove, Great Wolf would convert the tropical-themed resort into its signature Northwoods look and expand the indoor water park by about 20,000 square feet. There also would be an outdoor water park, more shopping and other amenities.

"The halo effect from this project will benefit the entire region," Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said.

Gurnee has $18 million left of $22 million that was designated for KeyLime Cove in a revenue-sharing agreement that was to expire in 2028. That deal was amended Monday night for Great Wolf.

On the first $550,000 of a 7 percent combined hotel and resort tax charged at Great Wolf, the revised agreement calls for the company and village to split the revenue 50-50. Great Wolf would be reimbursed all of the 7 percent tax beyond $550,000, with the potential to receive $18 million before the agreement expires in 2029.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Reimbursement for Great Wolf in years 13 through 20 is contingent on it providing a total $280,000 to the Visit Lake County tourism bureau, according to the agreement. The agreement was extended by one year to 2029 to account for the time Great Wolf would not be open during construction.

Great Wolf boasts of having North America's largest water park-hotel portfolio with 14 properties. Great Wolf director of development Bryson Heezen told the village board that fresh family rooms with themes such as a "wolf den," new restaurants, mini-bowling and ropes courses would be expected in Gurnee.

Heezen added Great Wolf's lobbies are a hub of action, particularly for a free daily clock tower show for guests.

"It's a great experience to see a lot of the kids out there with their parents at 8 o'clock (in the evening) in their pajamas and having cookies and falling asleep and being carried back to their rooms," he said.

KeyLime Cove, which debuted in Gurnee nine years ago, has a 65,000-square-foot water park, restaurants, gift shops and 414 hotel suites. Great Wolf is not expected to add hotel rooms.

Heezen said the water-park expansion is projected to be on the structure's west side closest to the tollway.

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