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Published: Friday, 1/23/2004

More water parks on tap for Sandusky area

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

SANDUSKY - If all goes according to plan, Cedar Point won t be the only tourist attraction making a splash in the Sandusky area.

Already home to Great Bear Lodge, an indoor water park that the owners plan to expand, the area is to gain a Cedar Point-owned indoor water park this year, and LMN Development from the Wisconsin Dells plans to have yet another under construction. A fourth is being considered by a Midwest company.

Plus, Cedar Point has its popular Soak City for lovers of outdoor water parks, and the owner of the nearby Monsoon Lagoon outdoor park hopes to expand with proceeds from the sale of stock to the public.

“I think our area can handle four to five indoor water parks,” said Mark Litten, executive director of the Greater Erie County Marketing Group. “We re thinking this will allow us to become a year-round destination for tourism, rather than the 20-week season from Memorial Day to Labor Day that we have now.”

Northwest Ohio s popular Cedar Point amusement park is building a $22 million resort called Castaway Bay, an expansion of its Radisson Harbour Inn resort that is near the entrance to Cedar Point. Besides adding 237 hotel rooms, the project will have a 38,000-square-foot indoor water park, a 100,000-gallon wave pool, and a 520-foot-long water roller coaster. It is to be completed in November.

Spokesman Janice Witherow said the company s research concluded that Sandusky has room for more than two water parks.

But firms that have never done them before might be in for a surprise, said Eric Lund, a co-owner of Great Lakes Cos. in Madison, Wis., owner of the Great Bear Lodge. His company has four indoor parks in the country, three more under construction, and two more being planned.

“They are very expensive to build and very difficult to operate,” he said. “You need a lot of expertise because you re just not running a hotel or just an indoor water park.”

The Great Bear Lodge plans to add a wave pool and a family ride next year, but not more hotel rooms to the current 272, he explained.

“It s not like people are beating down the doors ... and you could have rented hundreds of rooms if you just had them available,” he added.

A third area water park is expected to begin construction this year. LMN Development, made up of owners of indoor parks in the Wisconsin Dells resort area, has said it will build Kalahari Resort, an indoor and outdoor water park, along with a hotel and other resort amenities, on 140 acres on U.S. 250, less than five miles south of Cedar Point. The project was proposed nearly a year ago, but the owners could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Litten said the owners hope to break ground in March. Another firm has indicated it may build a fourth indoor water park in the area, not too far from the Kalahari Resort, he said, declining to identify the firm or give details.

Meanwhile, about 13 miles from Cedar Point near Port Clinton, Monsoon Lagoon Water Park and Family Fun Center plans to keeps its water attractions outdoors.

“Indoor water parks are going to be overdone in the future,” said Monsoon owner John Heilman. “If you can offer a really, really thrilling water park at a reasonable rate, you re going to just pack it every day.”

He said he is confident his park will attract about 75,000 visitors this year by providing a cheaper alternative. Monsoon Lagoon costs $14.95 for the day; while Cedar Point s Soak City is about $27.

Still, he plans to add more slides and attractions on the park s 33 acres as soon as he can raise the money. The park s parent company, Goofy Golf II Inc., expects to be folded into an inactive shell company, Grand Lux Inc., and sell stock to the public. The process is faster and cheaper than an initial public stock offering. It hopes to raise as much as $30 million.



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