Great Wolf opens ahead of schedule


By Karen Cimino Wilson
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Great Wolf Resorts is running ahead of schedule on its new resort and water park in Concord and will open to the public on April 3 — a week earlier than anticipated, General Manager Phil Cunningham said Tuesday.

The staff at the 402-room resort, which is located on 36 acres off Bruton Smith Boulevard, will open to contractors who have worked on the $100 million project and employees and their families today for a practice run. 

Cabarrus County residents have been buzzing about the new resort, wondering if there will be day passes, what the rates will be and what to expect at Great Wolf’s first Carolinas’ location.  Cunningham said the resort’s main lobby, restaurants, shops and the Elements Spa Salon will be open to the public and do not require a stay at the resort.

The 80,000-square-foot water park, though, is reserved for guests. But there are a few loopholes to that rule. Twice a year, Great Wolf partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters to raise money by selling passes good for one day at the water park. The other option for access to the water park without booking a room is to book a birthday party with at least 10 guests at a rate of $45 per person.

“The experience is what we’re after,” said Cunningham, adding that the resort doesn’t want an overcrowded water park.

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The water park
Great Wolf’s main attraction is its water park, which remains 84 degrees year round and features 11 water slides, a wave pool and a four-story, 12-level interactive tree fort called Fort McKenzie with 60 guest activated water effects.

At the pinnacle of the fort, there’s a large bucket that fills with 800 to 1,000 gallons of water that it dumps every three to five minutes in one huge gush of water.

The slide tubes are conspicuously absent from the indoor water park. That’s because they are on the outside of the building. Riders climb stairs inside the lodge and then slide out of the building and back in where they land in pools.

The park also features a pool with a challenge course where children can try to cross the pool on wobbly lily pads. There’s also an outdoor pool for guests who want some sun.

Fun for the kids
Great Wolf has a lot for children to do when they’re not at the water park, including an arcade that carries only family-rated video games. One of Great Wolf’s most unique features for kids is MagiQuest, an interactive game that resort operators describe as a huge scavenger hunt. Guests must buy a magic wand to play. Players wave their wands to activate MagiQuest stations, which include treasure chests, animated forest creatures and talking podiums. Guests gather points to earn prizes.

There’s also Scooops Kid Spa for 4- to 12-year-olds. The kid spa offers an ice-cream manicure and graham cracker facials. The resort also features an arts and crafts area for children 12 and younger and their parents. At 9 p.m. each night, Great Wolf employees read a bedtime story near the clock tower in the lobby following the animated clock tower show. 

For the teens, Great Wolf has Gr8_space. It’s geared toward 11- to 16-year-olds and features dance parties, karaoke nights and other activities led by a Great Wolf DJ. No parents are allowed in Gr8_space from 8 until closing each night.

The rooms and rates
The average cost of a stay at Great Wolf is about $289 per night, Cunningham said. The resort has some rooms that cost $500 to $600 per night, but they sleep eight people.  The resort will offer Cabarrus County residents an introductory rate of $149 per night for weekday bookings or $189 per night for a Friday, Saturday or Sunday stay. The resort expects to draw guests from a 200- to 300-mile radius, which is typical for the resorts, Cunningham said.

The resort has two wings: one for families with themed rooms featuring sleeping areas designed to look like tents and cabins with bunk beds and wallpaper murals of forest animals; and the other for adults and conferences with rooms featuring Jacuzzis. The accommodations include technology that allows guests to scan their wristbands to open their room doors, to buy food and drinks and to access various parts of the resort.

• Contact reporter Karen Cimino Wilson: 704-789-9141

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