Hotel Online  Special Report

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Indoor Waterpark Resorts Continue
Impressive Growth in ‘05
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A Viable Segment of the Travel Industry

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by: David J. Sangree, MAI, CPA, ISHC and Laurel A. Keller
January 2005

It’s official. The indoor waterpark resort has established itself as a viable segment of the travel industry and expanded well beyond its Wisconsin base. During the period 1983 to 2004, 60 indoor waterpark resorts opened or expanded their properties in the US and Canada totaling approximately 2,058,000 square feet and offering over 15,000 hotel rooms. The size of the indoor waterparks has grown significantly since their inception in the early 1980’s, while the average number of hotel rooms attached to these waterparks has also increased substantially over the years as shown in the chart which follows.

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For example, in 1994 there were six indoor waterpark resorts operating in the US and Canada with a total of 1,388 guestrooms and 310,800 square feet of indoor waterpark space. This equaled approximately one guestroom per every 224 square feet of indoor waterpark space offered. By 2004, 60 indoor waterpark resorts were operating with a total of 15,023 guestrooms and 2,058,400 square feet of indoor waterpark space. This represented approximately one guestroom per every 137 square feet of indoor waterpark space. The increase in the number of guestrooms constructed has kept pace with increases in demand for indoor waterparks, which has also grown steadily.

The following table summarizes the results of our supply analysis of indoor waterpark resorts. Although numerous hotels bill their indoor pools as "waterparks" our definition restricts the use of the term waterpark resort to those hotels which are connected to an indoor waterpark containing a minimum of 10,000 square feet of indoor waterpark space and inclusive of amenities such as slides, tubes, and a variety of indoor water play features.
 

Indoor Waterpark Resort Supply Analysis
State
Number of Resorts
Average Room Count
Indoor Waterpark Size (SF)
Percent
Franchised
Average
High
Low
Indiana
1
344
50,000
50,000
50,000
100%
Iowa
2
174
18,000
25,000
11,000
50%
Kansas
2
250
33,000
38,000
28,000
0%
Massachusetts
1
260
10,000
10,000
10,000
0%
Michigan
4
242
27,500
38,000
10,000
50%
Minnesota
6
189
27,167
45,000
11,000
50%
Missouri
2
617
20,000
20,000
20,000
0%
North Dakota
3
218
15,333
24,000
10,000
67%
Ohio
2
254
35,500
38,000
33,000
0%
Pennsylvania
1
368
51,500
51,500
51,500
100%
Washington
1
167
10,000
10,000
10,000
100%
Wisconsin
24
233
33,379
160,000
10,000
17%
Total USA/Average
49
240
29,263
31%
Alberta
3
260
80,600
217,800
12,000
67%
Manitoba
2
148
10,000
10,000
10,000
100%
Ontario
4
303
18,750
25,000
15,000
75%
Quebec
1
222
10,000
10,000
10,000
100%
Saskatchewan
1
157
10,000
10,000
10,000
100%
Total Canada/Average
11
242
32,436
82%
Note: Resorts have a minimum of 10,000 square feet of indoor waterpark space
Source: US Realty Consultants (216-221-9191), (January, 2005)

The table indicates that there are currently 49 indoor waterpark resorts located in the United States with nearly half located in Wisconsin. In addition, there are 11 indoor waterpark resorts operating in Canada, although, many other hotels in Canada offer smaller indoor water features with less than 10,000 square feet. Of the Wisconsin total, 15 are located in the Wisconsin Dells, which is a resort city in central Wisconsin that has achieved national recognition for its indoor waterparks and year-round activities. 

The six largest indoor waterpark resorts located in the Wisconsin Dells outperformed the general Wisconsin Dells non-resort overall average hotel occupancy by 15 occupancy points and the average daily rate of the non-resort hotels by $112 in 2003. According to their recent SEC filings, the four Great Wolf Lodge properties open in fiscal year 2004 averaged an occupancy level in the mid-60s% with an average daily rate slightly above $200.

Hotel companies, investors and developers in the US are only beginning to explore the potential and benefit of affiliating indoor waterpark resorts with a national hotel franchise, although franchised indoor waterpark resorts are more common in Canada. The above table shows that only 31% of US indoor waterpark resort rooms are affiliated with a national hotel chain, while 82% of indoor waterpark resort rooms in Canada are franchised. Even though the non-franchised resorts can benefit from offering a wider variety of indoor waterpark amenities, they lack the benefits of a central reservation system and franchise recognition. Holiday Inn is the only national hotel chain currently considering adding an indoor waterpark resort prototype to their offering of hotel types. At present, there are six Holiday Inn properties in operation attached to indoor waterparks, as Holiday Inn has been very open to the idea of allowing franchisees to add indoor waterparks to their existing properties. As of January 2005, there are 13 additional Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express indoor waterpark resorts planned for development in the United States. 

New Construction

The following table indicates indoor waterpark resorts which opened in 2004 in the United States and Canada.
 

Indoor Waterpark Resorts Opened in 2004
Resorts Location
Expanded or New Rooms
Waterpark SF
Holiday Inn with Indoor Waterpark Addition Amana, IA
0
11,000
Grand Prairie Hotel & Convention Center Hutchinson, KS
218
28,000
Holiday Inn Express with Indoor Waterpark Grand Rapids, MI
79
10,000
Grand Rios Resort Brooklyn Park, MN
0
45,000
Courtyard/Residence Inn - Milwaukee Rd. Depot Minneapolis, MN
357
15,000
Sleep Inn and Waterpark Minot, ND
126
24,000
Castaway Bay at Cedar Point Sandusky, OH
0
38,000
Holiday Inn Select with Indoor Waterpark Addition Indianapolis, IN
0
50,000
Blue Harbor Resort Sheboygan, WI
247
40,000
Lodge at Cedar Creek Wausau, WI
140
50,000
Kalahari Condominiums Expansion Wisconsin Dells, WI
360
125,000
Americana Resort with Indoor Waterpark Addition Niagara Falls, ONT.
0
25,000
Note: Resorts have a minimum of 10,000 square feet of indoor waterpark space
Source: US Realty Consultants (216-221-9191), (January, 2005)

The table indicates that 12 waterparks came on line within new resorts or expansions of existing resorts in 2004. Approximately half of the properties which opened in 2004 added or expanded waterpark facilities in existing hotels. Castaway Bay operated as a Radisson hotel until November of 2004 when ownership added a 38,000 square foot indoor waterpark, renovated the property, and dropped the franchise. In the case of the Kalahari, the developers added 360 condominium sleeping facilities to the 378-room, 125,000 square foot indoor waterpark resort, bringing their total amount of available guestrooms to 738.

Our research indicates that there are 19 new indoor waterpark resorts or expansions to resorts projected to open in the United States & Canada. The following table identifies these properties.
 

Indoor Waterpark Resorts Opening in 2005
Resorts Location
Expanded or New Rooms
Indoor
Waterpark SF
Baymont Inn Waterpark Addition Shepherdsville, KY
-
14,000
Hawthorn Suites Midlane Waterpark Addition Wadsworth, IL
-
15,000
Grand Bear Lodge at Starved Rock Utica, IL
100
24,000
Holiday Inn Express Indoor Waterpark Resort Dundee, MI
90
23,000
Zehnder's Splash Village Frankenmuth, MI
70
30,000
Boyne Mountain Avalanche Bay Boyne Falls, MI
222
88,000
Best Western Waterpark Expansion Sterling Heights, MI
-
9,000
Best Western Edgewater Waterpark Expansion Duluth, MN
17
23,000
Holiday Inn Maple Grove with Indoor Waterpark Maple Grove, MN
150
25,000
Holiday Inn with Indoor Waterpark Otsego, MN
110
15,000
Holiday Inn East with Indoor Waterpark Addition Columbus, OH
60
38,000
Kalahari Indoor Waterpark Resort- Route 250 Sandusky, OH
596
80,000
Great Wolf Lodge Poconos, PA
400
76,000
Six Flags Great Escape Waterpark Resort Queensbury, NY
200
38,500
Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg, VA
297
45,000
Massanutten Resort Indoor Waterpark Addition Harrisonburg, VA
-
42,000
Holiday Inn Express and Waterpark Milwaukee, WI
120
10,000
Country Springs Hotel Waterpark Addition Waukesha, WI
-
40,000
Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls, ONT
400
50,000
Total
2,832
685,500
Note: Resorts have a minimum of 10,000 square feet of indoor waterpark space
Source: US Realty Consultants (216-221-9191), (January, 2005)

In addition, there are a number of indoor waterpark resorts known to be in the planning or development stages in a variety of locations throughout the US and Canada. The following table identifies projects which have been announced. 
 

United States and Canada
Indoor Waterpark Resorts Opening in 2005/Under Construction/Proposed
Region
Number of Resorts
Properties
Number of Resorts
Rooms
Average Room Count
Indoor Waterpark
SF Total
SF Average
Northeastern United States
19
3,704
232
908,500
47,816
Midwestern United States
57
11,144
210
2,459,980
43,158
Southern United States
7
947
316
281,000
40,143
Western United States
13
3,400
283
552,000
42,462
Canada
2
540
270
80,000
40,000
Total USA/Average
98
19,735
262
4,281,480
43,689
Note: Resorts have a minimum of 10,000 square feet of indoor waterpark space
Source: US Realty Consultants (216-221-9191), (January, 2005)

The table indicates that we are currently tracking 98 projects with an average of 43,689 square feet of indoor waterpark space. These include expansions of existing hotels and development of new resorts. If all of these facilities are constructed, this would result in over 4,280,000 square feet of new indoor waterpark space. The largest developer of new projects is the Great Lakes Companies out of Madison, Wisconsin with their branded Great Wolf Lodge resorts. Although the majority of the indoor waterpark resorts planned are located in northern states, the first Texas indoor waterpark is under development in Galveston. Schlitterbahn Waterparks is developing the world’s first "convertible" waterpark on 25 acres that will include an approximately 50,000 square foot indoor section with a retractable roof. The approximately 200 room resort is tentatively slated to open in 2006. Schlitterbahn operates two existing outdoor waterpark resorts in Texas.

Even "Bigger" Splash

Indoor waterpark resorts have grown is size as well as popularity since their inception in the 1980’s. The average size of the indoor waterpark component has swelled to accommodate more amenities (such as wave pools, additional activity pools, "toddler friendly" play areas, dry activity components, and more intricate tubes and slides). For example, the Great Lakes Companies have increased the size of their indoor waterparks’ design as demand for more intricate waterplay features has increased resultant of the concept’s popularity. The company’s Great Wolf Lodge property in Sandusky, Ohio (which opened in 2001) was constructed with a 33,000 square foot indoor waterpark area. Great Wolf Lodges in Kansas City, Kansas and Traverse City, Michigan both opened in 2003 with 38,000 square foot indoor waterpark areas. In 2005, the Great Lakes Companies will open three new resorts in the Poconos, Pennsylvania; Williamsburg, Virginia; and Niagara Falls, Ontario. The indoor waterpark components at these three resorts will average 57,000 square feet. 

As with the amusement park industry, owners and operators of indoor waterpark resorts have discovered that in order to attract new families to their facilities and keep their repeat guests coming back for more, they will need to continually work to add new components and keep the concept "fresh." We project that the average size of indoor waterparks constructed will continue to increase as resorts add attractions which are large in scope such as wave pools, areas specially designed for younger resort guests and, (of course) faster, taller, steeper, more intricate waterslides and tubes. As more and more indoor waterpark resorts are constructed throughout the United States and Canada, developers will need to focus on individualizing the offerings of their resorts, maintaining customer service levels as attendance increases, and adding new components whenever possible.

Conclusion

Indoor waterpark resorts have emerged as a leisure destination for families looking for a convenient weekend getaway or vacation. Historically, the indoor waterpark resorts were located in the Wisconsin Dells, but growth continues throughout the United States. We project continued development of indoor waterpark resorts in the northern United States as they offer an attractive year-round leisure opportunity for families and attractive investment returns for developers.

David J. Sangree, MAI, CPA, ISHC is President of Hotel & Leisure Advisors, a national hospitality consulting firm specializing in appraisals, feasibility studies, and impact analysis for hotels, resorts, waterparks, and other leisure real estate. When this article was published, David Sangree was Director of Hospitality Consulting with US Realty Consultants and a Principal in the Cleveland office. 

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Contact:

David J. Sangree, MAI, CPA, ISHC
Hotel & Leisure Advisors
14805 Detroit Avenue, Suite 420
Cleveland, OH 44107-3921
216-228-7000 Phone    216-228-7320 Fax
dsangree@hladvisors.com
www.hladvisors.com

US Realty Consultants
216-221-9191 Phone     216-221-9097 Fax 
www.usrc.com
 

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Also See: Hotel Capitalization Rates Drop Further / May 2005
Cleveland’s Lodging Market: A Slow Climb Back / David J. Sangree & Joseph Pierce/ February 2005
Indoor Waterpark Resorts Continue Impressive Growth in ‘05; a Viable Segment of the Travel / David J. Sangree / January 2005
Indoor Waterpark Resorts Expand Nationwide / David J. Sangree / April 2004
Cleveland Lodging Market at Bottom with Improvement Predicted / US Realty Consultants, Inc. / January 2004
Hotel Capitalization Rates Drop Again / David J. Sangree, MAI, CPA, ISHC / April 2004
Appraisal and Financing of Indoor Waterpark Resorts / David J. Sangree / October 2003
Hotel Capitalization Rates Drop / David J. Sangree, MAI, CPA, ISHC / February 2003


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