By Jeff Coy, ISHC

December 6, 2013 --- Twenty-three (23) waterpark resort projects opened in the USA during 2013, a 8.0% increase over last year. This compares with 20 in 2012, 27 in 2011 and the record high of 40 in 2007. Thirteen (13) projects were brand names such as Hyatt, Marriott, Great Wolf, Wet 'n Wild, Carnival Cruise and Norwegian Cruise Lines, and 10 projects were independent owner projects. Fourteen (14) projects were new openings, and 9 were expansions of existing properties. While money is just beginning to loosen up for hotel developers, new hotel construction is still rather flat, but resort acquisitions and expansions are rising. Here's a review:

Hyatt Regency Hill Country in San Antonio
Hyatt Regency Hill Country in San Antonio

In March 2013, the 500-room Hyatt Regency Hill Country in San Antonio installed a FlowRider, a wave machine that provides a 40,000 gallon sloped wave surface for stand-up surfboarders. Flowriding may resemble surfing, but it is really a combination of skateboarding, wakeboarding, boogie boarding, snowboarding and surfing --- a perfect blend that appeals to all board sport enthusiasts. In addition to the wave machine, the resort added a 22-foot tower slide to its growing 5-acre outdoor waterpark, which includes a 950-foot Ramblin River, an activity pool with volleyball and basketball, an adult pool, 2 hot tubs and a zero-entry kiddie pool. The add-ons make Hyatt Hill Country an even better vacation destination for families with active children, according to general manager Gino Calliendo. It's all part of a $35 million transformation of the resort. Having a FlowRider also generates more group business and special events for the resort. For more, call 210-520-4022 or go to www.hillcountry.hyatt.com.

Hotel Waterparks Opened in 2013

The International Exposition Center, also known as the I-X Center in Cleveland, added a new Whitewater Ride in March where riders go through some soggy turns and downhill to a splash zone. I-X is not a permanent facility, but for 23 days of the year during March and April each year the City of Cleveland hosts an annual event in 985,000 sf of space which makes it the world's largest indoor amusement/waterpark --- for 23 days of the year. There's no hotel attached, but I-X created hotel packages with 4 breakfasts and 4 park admission fees at the Courtyard by Marriott Cleveland Airport South. For more, call 800-897-3942.

Mall of America & Indoor Waterpark awaits its long-dormant $1.5 billion Phase II expansion, but meanwhile Radisson Blu opened in April 2013 on the south side of the mall with 500 rooms to accommodate waterpark users and shoppers from around the world.

Maui Sands Resort in Sandusky OH reopened in April with 100 renovated rooms and its 55,000 sf indoor waterpark after new owners, Sun Development Inc, purchased the property in early 2012. The waterpark features a giant bowl slide, 3 tube and body slides, an action river, multiple pools and a tower play structure. The resort also has a video arcade, a fitness center, business center and meeting rooms. Go to www.mauisandsresort.com.

Bridge Investment Group Partners bought the 290-room Park Inn & Waterpark in Albuquerque, added an outdoor beach area to its waterpark, added the 1,600 sf Altitude Sports Grill and completed a $5 million remodel of the hotel. Bridge is a private equity investor with $1.3 billion in assets. Gemstone Hotels & Resorts of Park City UT is the new owner and management company. The hotel will be renamed. For more, contact Jeff McIntyre at Gemstone. Call 435-658-2175 or go to www.gemstoneresorts.com.

Legoland Hotel
Legoland Hotel

North America's first Legoland Hotel opened with 254 rooms in April 2013 at Legoland's amusement park and outdoor waterpark in Carlsbad CA. Guest rooms are decorated in Lego pirate and kingdom themes and feature bunk and trundle beds for children. The hotel hired kids to serve as concierges on weekends to provide guests with a kid perspective on how to navigate the 350-acre resort, according to general manager Peter Ronchetti. The hotel is expected to encourage amusement park guests to stay longer than just one day and also visit the aquarium and waterpark --- making it a true destination. By clustering a hotel with an amusement park, aquarium and waterpark, Legoland has created a 2 to 3-day immersive experience. Merlin Entertainment owns Legoland California and Legoland Florida along with parks in England, Germany, Denmark and Malaysia. Go to www.california.legoland.com/legoland-hotel/.

Carnival Cruises Ship, Sunshine
Carnival Cruises Ship, Sunshine

Carnival Cruises launched its newest ship, Sunshine with 550 staterooms and suites in the spring of 2013 and introduced its first WaterWorks, the Drainpipe tunnel waterslide and Speedway Splash --- a two-lane, long-distance racing waterslide. The WaterWorks configuration varies the experience among 10 different Carnival cruise ships. The Carnival Sunshine fun ship also features Camp Carnival, one of the best family programs in the cruise industry. It makes it easy for parents and grandparents to bring their kids along on the cruise. There's also a tropical night spot called the Havana Bar and a full-service Asian restaurant. With 24 ships, Carnival is one of most recognized names in affordable family cruising. The company is based in Miami FL. For more, call 800-227-6482 or go to www.carnival.com.

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Liner
Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Liner

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Liner first launched in May 2013 with its Aqua Park, making it one of the most unique cruise ships ever built. To watch the ship being built, go to www.buildingbreakaway.ncl.com. The Breakaway has been making voyages in and out of New York City to destinations such as Bermuda, Orlando, Nassau and various private islands. The ship has 2008 staterooms. It is decked out to give the appeal and atmosphere of New York City itself with its restaurants, bars and clubs. But the big attraction is trying out the ship's 5 signature waterslides from Whitewater West. First, the family slide is the smallest slide on the ship, so little kids can enjoy it the most. The Whip slides are several decks high and spiral all the way down. Two yellow and purple tunnel slides provide increasingly tighter turns, giving the feeling of pulling more G's. The two Free Fall waterslides are dual aqualoop slides that are the tallest, fastest and most spectacular on any ship. The Free Fall slides consist of a countdown and a trap door that opens, giving the rider a very fast free-fall start that turns into a upward push before coming to an end in the splashdown lane. Not only fun to ride but fun to watch because the slides are translucent giving people a chance to see riders go up the loop portion of the ride. In addition to the Aqua Park, there are 2 bars, multiple hot tubs, 2 pools and FlyWheel Sports Indoor Cycling Studios. For more, call 866-234-7350 or go to www.ncl.com.

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Liner Aqua Park
Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Liner Aqua Park

The Omni Homestead Resort opened a 2-acre, spring-fed, outdoor waterpark called Allegheny Springs in May 2013. Allegheny Springs offers two 100-foot Mountain Rush waterslides, a 400-foot lazy river, a kid's water play zone, a sandy beach, family pool, whirlpool and cabanas. The historic resort in Hot Springs VA offers a winter wonderland that combines year-round swimming and ice skating. Slip on a pair of skates and glide across the ice, then head over to the adjacent spring-fed, heated pool for relaxing. The 483-room Homestead is packed with family-friendly activities including indoor bowling, movies, fishing pond, hayrides, falconry, archery and 18-hole mini golf. The resort also offers the South's first downhill ski area, 48-stable equestrian center and shooting club. The waterpark additions are part of a $25 million improvement program. In 2006, the Homestead's owner, ClubCorp Inc, was acquired by a private equity group led by KSL Capital Partners LLC. KSL Resorts assumed management until 2013 when it sold the resort to Omni Hotels and the property was renamed The Omni Homestead Resort. For more, call 540-839-1766 or go to www.thehomestead.com.

The Caribbean Indoor Waterpark in Lancaster PA opened in May 2013. It is attached to the 70-room Budget Host Inn. But that's not all. It participates with four hotels. It's also adjacent to the Wingate by Wyndham which offers a package with free admission to the indoor waterpark. And the Economy Inn, only 1/2 block away, also offers guests access to the waterpark. Fourth and finally, the Econo Lodge North is only 1 block away and offers a package to the indoor waterpark. The Caribbean Indoor Waterpark is open year round, weekends only. It provides 2 waterslides, plunge pool, activity pool, lily pad walk, a dump bucket and hot tub in approximately 8,450 sf of space. Situated off Route 30 near the Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park, the Budget Host Inn & Caribbean Indoor Waterpark is about 5 miles from historic Strasburg. For more, call the hotel at 717-397-7781 or go to www.lancasterbudgethost.com.

Fort Hall Casino Hotel & Event Center in Pocatello ID added an indoor waterpark and golf facility in May 2013. Ray Barlow is the contact man. For more, call him at 800-522-4700 or go to www.shobangaming.com.

Sahara Sam's Oasis
Sahara Sam's Oasis

Sahara Sam's Oasis indoor waterpark in West Berlin NJ officially opened its $6.5 million, 2-acre outdoor waterpark expansion in May 2013. A 9-month old camel named Percy was on site for the festivities. Called the Beach Club, the outdoor waterpark is open daily during summer and weekends the rest of the year. The completion of the Beach Club is one of the largest privately funded projects undertaken in New Jersey. It began 7 months earlier with the installation of a 350-foot body slide called the Nile Mile. The Beach Club also has a 12,000 sf wave pool, volleyball courts, 15 new cabanas, leisure swimming areas and an outdoor Tiki Lounge. In addition, there's a FlowRider surfing simulator, waterslides, a lazy river, arcade and a ropes challenge course. About 58,000 of its 68,000 sf are under a retractable roof system which allows the park to operate year round. The 2013 outdoor expansion increased visitor capacity by 50%. The outdoor expansion is available at no additional cost to annual pass ($60) members or with a standard admission ticket. Sahara Sam's was first opened in 2009 as a standalone with no hotel attached. Sahara Sam's is one of only two commercially-viable indoor waterparks in North America that are not attached to a hotel. For more, call 856-767-7580 or go to www.saharasams.com.

Comfort Suites Lakeside in Houghton Lake MI completed its $250,000 upgrade of its indoor waterpark in May 2013, according to manager Brooklynn Benson. The 70-room full-service resort restored its 9,000 sf indoor waterpark that includes a lazy river for tubing and a 3-story high slide, 2 pools, adult hot tub and kid's hot tub. For more, call 989-422-4000.

The Holiday Inn Express & Texarkana Convention Center opened in June 2013 along with the new Holiday Springs Waterpark located adjacent to the convention center. Both ventures were built by owner-developer Dr. Hiren Patel of Texarkana Hotels LLC. The hotel has 127 rooms and the convention center has 25,000 sf of meeting space. The new outdoor waterpark occupies 5.4 acres and includes 10 waterslides, a kid's pool, adult lagoon, 5 amusement rides, a wave pool, splash pads and outdoor water theater and a 800-foot lazy river. One of the slides, called a Cliffhanger, is an enclosed body slide that riders enter through a launch capsule 60 feet above the deck. A trap door opens to start a vertical drop into the transparent slide for a 265-foot ride. Partially designed by the Neuman Group. For more, call 870-772-2200 or go to www.holidayspringswaterpark.com.

Waylon's Water World at the Z Fun Factory in Yuma AZ added 4 waterslides in June 2013, bringing total waterslides to 19. Bryce and Becky Zeller, who own the waterpark, also acquired an additional 40 acres of adjoining property. The additional acreage will allow the Zellers to eventually attract a hotel developer. The next phase of construction, when completed, will make Waylon's the largest waterpark in Arizona --- bigger than Wet 'n Wild in northwest Phoenix. For more, call Bryce and Becky Zeller at 928-726-6000 or go to www.waylonswaterworld.com.

JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort opened its outdoor waterpark in June 2013. General manager Ken Schwartz said the waterpark includes a giant tower with 2 to 3 slides, play areas for toddlers and older children along with the desert's first simulated surfing pool and indoor games area. The 65,340 sf waterpark is built around the Springs Pool. The resort secured a transient lodging tax rebate worth $1 million from the city of Palm Desert to help finance the construction of the waterpark. The waterpark will help the 884-room Marriott compete with Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage CA where they opened a family-oriented waterpark called Splashtopia in 2007. Schwartz expects a 3-point occupancy boost from the waterpark and said it would be especially helpful in attracting young families during the valley's hot summer season. The resort is owned and managed by Host Hotels & Resorts Inc of Washington DC. For more, dial 800-228-9290 or go to www.marriott.com.

Wet 'n Wild Las Vegas NV opened a new $50 million outdoor waterpark on 41 acres in June 2013. Wet 'n Wild features 2 speed slides, a 1000-foot lazy river, a multi-person raft ride, a 360-foot 6-lane racing slide, a 17,000 sf wave pool with 3-foot high waves, a series of inline tube slides and numerous waterslides from Whitewater West --- the Boomerango, the Rattler, the Royal Flush bowl slide and Splash Island with an aqua play area, a 300-gallon tipping bucket and a variety of slides. Although a hotel has not entered the picture yet, we felt compelled to report on this important project because of its magnitude and history in Las Vegas. There was a former Wet 'n Wild Waterpark on the strip in Las Vegas built by SeaWorld creator George Millay who later sold it to Palace Entertainment. When the land lease expired in 2004, the old Wet 'n Wild was dismantled and the site is now used for equipment storage. So, a new Wet 'n Wild returns to Las Vegas. The new Wet 'n Wild is partly-owned and operated by Village Roadshow, an Australian entertainment company that has a 51% stake along with private investors owning the remainder. For more, go to www.wetnwildlasvegas.com.

Nick Laskaris, owner of the Mt Olympus Water & Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells WI, bought another hotel on the strip and added a new intense ride to his waterpark. Laskaris bought the former Pine Dell Motel that was adjacent to the former Four Season Hotel he had purchased earlier. The purchase put Laskaris over his goal of offering more than 1,000 rooms in Wisconsin Dells. The renovated motel is now part of Mt Olympus Village. In July 2013, Laskaris installed a new ride called the Hades 360, the world's first wooden roller coaster with a 360-degree turn and an underground tunnel. The Hades 360 features (1) the world's longest underground track measuring 1,400 feet, (2) a sharp 90-degree turn in the dark, (3) an impressive incline of 162 feet and (4) a total track length of 4,746 feet. The new ride provides a 13-story drop and reaches speeds up to 70 mph. Anyone who reserves a room at Mt Olympus has unlimited access to the Hades 360.

In addition to Mt Olympus Hotel Rome and a series of Mt Olympus Villages offering over 1000 rooms in Wisconsin Dells, owner Nick Laskaris opened Mt Olympus Camp Resort which features tent sites with tents, treehouse units and RV sites.

In October 2013, Nick Laskaris, owner of the Mt Olympus Water Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells, acquired the Concord and Monaco hotels totaling 300 rooms --- bringing his total room count to 1,300. The rooms are being refurbished and will be ready for occupancy in May 2014. If you want to talk to Nick, call 608-253-8445 or go to www.mtolympuspark.com.

The 260-room Clarion Hotel in West Springfield MA opened a $1 million, 5,000 sf indoor waterpark in September 2013 --- as part of a $4 million renovation. The indoor waterpark has three 29-foot spiral waterslides emptying into a 40x45-foot pool. It also has a 3,000 sf spray park. The entire waterpark, open year round, is covered with a glass-roofed atrium in the center of the hotel. Half of the rooms have been completely renovated and the other half will be done this winter, according to owner Shailesh Patel. The Clarion also features a video arcade and an 18-person, five-dimensional theater. Patrons wear 3D glasses and sit in chairs that shake and vibrate like a roller coaster or whatever is showing on the screen. For more, call 413-781-8750 or go to www.wsclarionhotel.com.

The CoCo Key Waterpark Resort in Cincinnati OH reopened in November 2013, making the switch from Crowne Plaza to the Radisson North. The hotel features 257 rooms with a 50,000 sf indoor waterpark. Guests can purchase a pass at the front desk or choose a hotel-waterpark package to enjoy the indoor waterpark, which features an aqua play area, a zero-entry kiddie pool, lazy river, snack shop and bar. In 2011, the hotel waterpark resort was sold at auction for $2.2 million (only $8,560 per room) to an anonymous buyer. The current owner is Vijaya Kumar Vemulapalli, president of Durga LLC in Cincinnati. For more, call 513-771-2080.

Jay Peak Ski & Summer Resort
Jay Peak Ski & Summer Resort

Jay Peak Ski & Summer Resort in Jay VT is opening its 85-room Stateside Hotel & Baselodge in December 2013 --- providing affordable ski-in, ski-out lodging on the mountain. The new hotel was built as a result of the resort "running a ski season occupancy rate of 94 percent, with every holiday sold to being over-sold, and every weekend, if not completely sold out, at about 98 percent," according to spokesman JJ Toland. During the year, Jay Peak relocated the resort's main entrance, opened a 2,000 sf wedding/event center and constructed 84 mountain cottages along the golf course.

Earlier, Jay Peak co-owner Bill Stenger had built the 57-suite Tram Haus Lodge. In 2012, he opened the new 176-room Hotel Jay & Conference Center along with an indoor ice arena and 60,000 sf indoor waterpark called The Pump House. It is all part of a $300 million improvement program financed using the EB-5 visa program. The program grants permanent resident status to foreigners who make either a $500,000 or $1,000,000 investment in a commercial enterprise, creating at least 10 full time jobs.

Bill Stenger has turned the EB-5 program into a source of otherwise unavailable capital for his resort and his state, which owns and operates its own Vermont Regional EB-5 Center. Vermont has 100% success in getting residency status for investors. It has 15 EB-5 projects, of which Jay Peak and Stenger have nine. "We are a small state, and we are able to get things done," he said. He has worked with three Vermont governors from two different parties to attract hundreds of millions of investment funds for the state. Stenger and Vermont are considered the gold standard in the EB-5 world. If you want to talk with Bill Stenger about his resort and/or EB-5 financing, call him at 802-988-2611 or go to www.jaypeakresort.com.

Hotel Waterpark Closings in 2013

The former Sheraton Chicago Northwest & Coco Key Waterpark closed in 2009 and was purchased in 2011 for $7.7 million by Argent Realty. Argent developer Carl Groesbeck presented a $250 million redevelopment plan which was approved by the City of Arlington Heights. The multi-phase plan includes: (1) converting the former Sheraton Hotel into 214 apartments, the first of two residential towers, (2) constructing two new hotels with a combined 350 rooms, (3) constructing five commercial and retail buildings and (4) separating and reopening CoCo Key indoor waterpark. The hotel conversion to 214 apartments is expected to open by June 2014. A 161-room Four Points by Sheraton is being constructed as a new building on the northwest corner of the 25-acre property and is expected to open with limited services in January 2015. Plans for the former CoCo Key indoor waterpark call for adding 10,000 sf and reopening with a smaller hotel for families. Owners talked with Andrea Borota, executive assistant with Waterpark Ventures Management Services LLC, a division of the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, and reached an agreement in principal to operate CoCo Key. No timelines announced yet.

The Hilton City Center in Milwaukee WI closed its indoor waterpark and converted the area to meeting space.

Hotel Waterpark Expansions During 2013

Those properties increasing their hotel space or waterpark space during 2013 include:

  • Woodbine Development Corp, the long time owners of the 500-room Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa in San Antonio TX has obtained $89.5 million for the property. The money is being used to fund a $35 million renovation and expansion of their meeting space and 5-acre outdoor waterpark to include a FlowRider surf simulator and a tower slide.

Those properties adding slides, rides & attractions during 2013 include:

  • Wilderness Resort in the Smokies April 2013 added the Cyclone Racer, where four riders grab mats and plunge down a 4-lane, 50-foot high waterslide in a race to the bottom.
  • Noah's Ark added a Surfing Safari surf machine in 2013.
  • Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort in Wisconsin Dells added a Lunar Loop and Cosmic Drop plunge slides focused on younger guests.
  • Kalahari Resort added Wisconsin's first swim-up bar and an indoor-outdoor hot tub.
  • Michigan's largest indoor waterpark, Avalanche Bay, located at Boyne Mountain Ski Resort in Boyne Falls, added a $500,000 Super Loop by ProSlide. The new attraction is a plunge slide with a trap door that opens, dropping the rider down a long tube.

Troubled Properties in 2013

Health issues temporarily closed the Wasserbahn waterpark at the Clarion Inn in Williamsburg IA after five months of being opened during public health investigations.

Name Changes in 2013

In June 2013 Albuquerque's Park Inn by Radisson Hotel & Waterpark changed its name to Hotel Cascada after a $5 million waterpark remodel which included the addition of a new FlowRider surf machine and newly created beach area.

Hotel Waterparks Bought & Sold in 2013

Greek Peak, a Cortland NY ski resort with adventure center, hotel and indoor waterpark, sold at auction in March 2013 for $6.7 million to John Meier and Marc Stemerman of Elmira NY. Their purchase makes them the owners of the ski mountain, 106-room Hope Lake Lodge and the 41,000 sf Cascades Indoor Waterpark. The previous owners racked up $47 million in debt related to the cost and poor sales of its condominiums. The resort's primary lender, Tennessee Commerce Bank, also failed, and the FDIC got involved. New buyer John Meier said the ski portion of the resort was profitable. It was the debt load on the condo-hotel that forced the previous owners into bankruptcy.

Sno Mountain Resort & Waterpark near Scranton PA sold for $5.12 million to Montage Mountain Resorts LP in April 2013.

Six Flags Entertainment Corp purchased 100% of the remaining ownership interests in Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark in Queensbury NY in October 2013.

Riegsecker Inc is purchasing the Splash Universe Hotel & Wana Waves Waterpark in Shipshewana IN.

Canada Hotel Waterparks in 2013

Microtel in Lloydminster AB added a small pool, a hot tub and a Tornado waterslide.

Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Vernon BC added a small indoor pool with a 25-foot high, indoor-outdoor waterslide.

Best Western in Okotoks AB installed a 15-foot tall waterslide which exits into a small splash pool along with a hot tub.

Holiday Inn Calgary AB installed a hot tub and a Tornado waterslide that exits into a splash pool along with a hot tub.

Best Western in Lethbridge AB installed a 15-foot tall waterslide, splash pool and hot tub.

Cranberry Harbour Castle Resort in Collingwood ON constructed a larger pool and a longer indoor-outdoor waterslide from Aquatics by Westwind.

Travelodge, 40 miles east of Calgary in Strathmore AB has a 2,800 sf indoor pool with a waterslide. For more information, call 403-901-0000.

Super 8 in Castlegar, east of Vancouver BC, has a 3,500 sf indoor pool with a waterslide.

Super 8 in Caraquet NB has 50 guest rooms and a 3,300 sf indoor pool with a body slide.

Radisson Hecla Resort on Hecla Island MB has 90 rooms and a 10,000 sf indoor waterpark with an enclosed body slide, lazy river and several water play features. Open year round, the resort offers summer and winter activities for families and corporate groups. In summer, there's outdoor biking and hiking. In winter, there's cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating, ice fishing and tobogganing. For more, call 204-279-2041 or go to www.lakeviewhotels.com.

Mexico & Caribbean Hotel Waterparks in 2013

Sunset Beach Resort & Oasis Waterpark added a 124-room boutique hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort
Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort

Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort, a Sandals resort, purchased its adjacent neighbor, Veranda Resort & Pirate's Island Waterpark for a reported figure of $100 million. The 123-suite Veranda has the largest (45,000 sf) outdoor waterpark in the Caribbean with a giant pool, 7 waterslides, a 650-foot lazy river, waterfalls, water cannons, kiddie pool, a beached pirate ship and, best of all, a SurfStream simulator by American Wave Machine. Beaches is a family haven. Ninety-five (95%) percent of the clientele are families, and there is so much for kids to do. The 5-star Veranda blended into the Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort boosting its room count to over 1100 units. For more information, talk to Gordon "Butch" Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts International at 877-308-8197 or call the resort at 649+946-8000. Website is www.beaches.com.

That's what happened in North America as 2013 comes to an end. If we missed something, please let us know.

Stay positive, work smart and do the right thing!

About Jeff Coy

Jeff Coy, ISHC, is president of JLC Hospitality Consulting based in Phoenix-Cave Creek AZ. He is certified by the International Society of Hospitality Consultants. For more about market research, economic feasibility and design-development services for all kinds of resorts, waterparks, adventure parks and sports facilities, call 480-488-3382 or email jeffcoy@jeffcoy.com or go to www.jeffcoy.com.

Contact: Jeff Coy

jeffcoy@jeffcoy.com / 480-488-3382

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