News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Darryl Enriquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 9, 2003 -WAUKESHA, Wis.--The Country Inn Hotel & Convention Center is attempting to enter the flourishing indoor water park business with a 25,000-square-foot attraction that is expected to cost nearly $30 million, hotel owner Dick Richards announced Monday.
Although it doesn't match the size of the mammoth 65,000- to 120,000-square-foot indoor water parks in Wisconsin Dells, Richards speculated that the project could turn Waukesha into a tourist destination for families in search of weekend getaways.
It would be the largest indoor water park in the Milwaukee area, with the Hilton Milwaukee City Center park being 20,000 square feet.
Mayor Carol Lombardi said she supports the project and is pleased that it will be available for public use through the purchase of daily passes.
The proposal will not conflict with city plans to develop new water-use venues for its residents, she said.
For the past year, the city has been evaluating the aquatic needs of its residents, which likely will lead to the replacement of one aging outdoor pool and is offering the potential of building an indoor swimming center and an outdoor water park.
"This will serve a completely different water need than for persons who will use our facilities for lessons and community recreation," Lombardi said of the hotel project. "It will be for fun and frolic for a day or a weekend."
The city's Plan Commission will review the initial plans of the project at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Richards said the project would be good for Waukesha.
"It will generate economic activity and turn Waukesha into a tourist destination," he said.
The aim of the attraction is to siphon off Chicago and Milwaukee tourists who drive I-94 west to get to the Dells, he said. The hotel is on an I-94 frontage road between the Highway T and Highway G freeway ramps.
"Our location is well suited to this expansion," Richards says in a letter distributed to employees. "The visitors to the new water park will find it a convenient distance from Chicago and northern Illinois, from Milwaukee and other eastern Wisconsin population centers and from Madison and points west."
In its preliminary plans, the park will contain two body slides and one rafting slide, along with children's play areas and an adult whirlpool.
Another planned amenity is an indoor/outdoor heated pool in which swimmers can dive beneath a glass separator to get from one section of the pool to the other, Richards said. The heated water will allow outdoor swimming in the dead of winter, he said.
After the water park opens with an expected launch next fall, Richards and his financial partners in the project will begin looking at attaching a wave pool and building hotel suites that cater to families, he said.
Richards said his hotel is geared primarily toward serving business clients and convention business, both of which have decreased with the down economy. Building a water park will increase the venues the hotel has to offer, he said.
ADCI of Madison is the firm developing the park for Richards and his partners. The firm in Lake Delton specializes in resort hospitality, with an emphasis on water parks.
Bill Ryan, the manager of the Country Inn project and an owner of ADCI, said his firm has done about 25 hotel water parks, including the Wilderness Inn and Great Wolf Lodge, both located in the Dells area.
"We've put together a design team that wants to compete with Wisconsin Dells," Ryan said. "We have to give them a reason to stop at the Country Inn and not go to Wisconsin Dells."
To achieve that goal, $750,000 will be spent to develop a theme for the park, which is double what the other parks have spent, he said.
"Instead of bringing them the Caribbean and North Woods, which has been done, we're bringing them the history of Waukesha, such as transit lines and the old Waukesha Beach amusement park (formerly on Pewaukee Lake)," Ryan said.
In order to float the deal, Richards will incorporate three partners into his hotel/ convention/water park venture to infuse investment money into the business that he and his family have owned for 19 years.
The Richards Family Group will join with RealCap to form CIP Equity LLC, he said. Richards will be chief executive officer, and his daughter, Nancy Richards, will be chief operating officer of the new venture.
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(c) 2003, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.