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Published: Wednesday, 10/19/2005

Dundee: Indoor water park, hotel expansion planned

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

DUNDEE - As the annual fall migration of hunters moving north begins, the village is adding another reason this week to draw visitors off the highway.

And for this one, visitors don't need to have an ingrained appreciation of a 12-point rack.

Focus Hospitality Services, a Valparaiso, Ind.-based hotel company with 22 properties in the Midwest, broke ground Tuesday on a hotel/indoor water park that is literally in the front yard of Michigan's biggest single tourist draw.

The company, which also operates three hotels in Adrian, will add an 86-room wing onto its existing Holiday Inn Express on Cabela's Drive, as well as a 53,000 square-foot indoor waterpark in the courtyard of its new "L" shaped hotel.

Both additions are planned to open in mid-June at a cost of more than $26 million, said Dean Morgan, president of Focus Hospitality Services, and represent a further investment in Dundee.

"Right now, [Dundee] is one of our best-performing hotels. Cabela's has proven to be a big draw there," Mr. Morgan said.

Since it opened in August, 2000, Cabela's in Dundee has remained Michigan's single biggest tourist attraction, drawing an estimated 6 million visitors each year to the formerly tiny village in the western part of Monroe County.

While some of the outdoor giant's business is admittedly cyclical with the hunting seasons, it remains a steady draw throughout the year, local and state tourism officials said.

Since it opened, dozens of restaurants, stores, and shops have sprung up in and around Dundee to take advantage of all those incoming tourists.

But if Dundee has had one thing missing from its development plan, it has been a steady drawing point for those family members without an appreciation of the Great Outdoors.

"I think it will draw more people here and it will help Cabela's," said Patrick Burtch, Dundee's longtime village manager.

Mr. Burtch said the hotel's $26 million investment will help add to the village's ballooning tax base, as well as provide another reason for people to stay in the village longer and give them more to do. It's all part of the continuing economic boom that was caused almost entirely by in the village longer and give them more to do.

It's all part of the continuing economic boom that was caused almost entirely by the 225,000 square foot Cabela's store when it was opened in August, 2000.

"The intersection's popping up a little bit, and the indoor water park is only going to help that," Mr. Burtch said, in a bit of classic understatement.

"I think it's probably one more thing to do in Dundee. It provides an option for mom and the kids if dad wants to go shopping," Mr. Morgan said.

"I think what you'll see is folks spending the night to stay at the waterpark where they might only have stayed in Dundee for the day."

Mr. Morgan said the new waterpark will offer discounted daypasses to "locals" within a 20 or 30-mile radius for those that don't need the hotel's services, and will work with local charity organization, and businesses on other discounts as well.

Mr. Burtch said local taxpayers have already witnessed the impact of Dundee's continuing development in their annual tax bills, which have dropped from 22 mills annually 18 years ago to the 10 mills assessed last year.

"The village is doing pretty well financially," the village manager said.



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