Chance the Rapper hits the waterslides at new Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee
The long-awaited grand opening of Great Wolf Lodge and water park in Gurnee was particularly splashy.
Chance the Rapper and participants from the Kids of the Kingdom summer camp were the first to plunge down the resort's 15 waterslides Thursday morning.
Great Wolf Lodge presented Chance with a check for $75,000 for going down every slide. The money will go to the faith-based leadership camp on the South Side of Chicago, sponsored by Chance's youth empowerment charity SocialWorks.
The three-time Grammy winner and Chicago native led the crowd in a countdown to hit a big red button to turn on the water with two children from the camp, along with Great Wolf Resorts Inc. CEO Murray Hennessy and lodge mascot Wiley the Wolf.
Great Wolf hosted 80 Kids of the Kingdom campers last weekend as part of its soft opening.
Hennessy told the crowd one of the campers came up to him and declared the lodge to be the greatest place on the planet.
"I liked that tag line. I hadn't thought about using it," Hennessy said.
Most every trace of the building's previous Key Lime Cove theme has been replaced with a Northwoods aesthetic. The lobby features a massive stone fireplace and wood details.
The water park has been expanded by 80,000 square feet and there are waterslides galore, including some equipped with an elevator for riders' inner tubes.
Hennessy told the crowd no matter how cold the weather was outside, the water park was always 84 degrees.
The centerpiece is Fort Mackenzie, a wet jungle gym topped with a giant bucket that fills with 700 gallons of water that's dumped over guests every three minutes.
Even outside the water park area, there is an attraction every few feet. Steps from the mini bowling lanes is a massive, bright arcade, which is down the stairs from a build-your-own-toy store. On one end there is a 9-hole mini golf course, which is below a high-ropes course and next to several climbing walls. And all around, children wearing capes scurry about waving digital wands at hidden hot spots as part of the interactive game MagiQuest.
Hennessy said the renovation and improvements were the result of hard work by his team -- and $65 million.
"Family-friendly fun defines Gurnee," Mayor Kristina Kovarik said during the opening ceremony. "Great Wolf Lodge is now part of that tradition."
Most every activity is catered for children's enjoyment, including family yoga led by lodge mascots. Some of the 414 hotel suites include kids' rooms made to look like log cabins.
The resort's seven restaurants include a fancy farm-to-table restaurant with seasonal offerings and a taco joint serving food from an old bus.
Key Lime Cove closed in March 2016 and was empty for about a year before work started on the renovation and rebranding. More than 100 of the more than 600 staff members are former Key Lime Cove employees. The new owners have nearly tripled the staff from the Key Lime Cove days.
The lodge opens for regular guests at 9 a.m. Friday at 1700 Nations Drive.