Great Wolf Resorts

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Great Wolf Resorts
Type Private
Industry Hospitality
Predecessor(s) Great Bear Lodge (Sanduksky, OH), Black Wolf Lodge (Wisconsin Dells, WI)
Founder(s) Jack and Andrew Waterman
Headquarters Madison, Wisconsin, United States
Number of locations 11 (At least three more at various development stages)
Key people Kim Schaefer, CEO
Owner(s) Apollo Global Management

Great Wolf Resorts is the world's largest[1] chain of indoor water parks which owns and operates its family resorts under the Great Wolf Lodge brand.[2] The company is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to a water park, each resort features specialty restaurants, arcades, spas, fitness rooms and children’s activity areas.[3]


Great Wolf Lodge was founded by brothers Jack and Andrew "Turk" Waterman, the original owners of Noah's Ark water park.[4] The first Great Wolf Lodge location opened in 1997 in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.[3] The chain has since added eleven additional locations with three more currently in development.[5][6]

Apollo acquisition[edit]

On March 13, 2012, Apollo Global Management announced an agreement to acquire the company for $703 million.[7] Subsequently an investor group filed a complaint in Delaware Chancery Court stating that the deal, in which Apollo would pay $5 a share, undervalued the company. Great Wolf's financial advisor, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., of Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany, valued Great Wolf between $3.74 and $7.98 a share prior to the deal,[8] and securities analyst Jeffrey Thomison of the Louisville, KY firm Hilliard Lyons told the Wisconsin State Journal a $6 offer price could be justified based on Great Wolf's financials.[9] Deutsche Bank's range had been determined from eight different valuation techniques, including a Leveraged Buyout Analysis that set a range of $4.40 to $5.70 based on values "a financial buyer might be willing to pay." The price range from that analysis was later revised upward by over 30 percent, to $6.10 to $7.56 a share.[10]

KSL Capital Partners made an unsolicited offer of $6.25 a share on April 4, 2012, and Apollo Global Management subsequently raised its bid to $6.75 a share.[11] KSL then raised its cash offer to $7 a share on April 8, 2012, in a rare public bidding war.[12] After Apollo Global Management upped its offer to $7.85 a share on April 20, 2012, KSL Capital Partners announced it would not be making additional offers.[13]

The company's shares traded as low as $2.18 in October 2011 but climbed above $5 following the original announcement[14] and reached a 52-week high of $7.50 during trading on April 11, 2012.[15] The company has not been able to turn a profit since 2004 despite increasing revenue in recent years.[7] It lost $25.7 million in 2011 and $51 million in 2010.[12] Apollo's offer of $7.85 a share was a 171 premium to the six-month average of Great Wolf's share price prior to the commencement of bidding.[13] As of June 2012, Great Wolf was taken off of Nasdaq after Apollo bought the company out.

Future development[edit]

On January 13, 2010, Great Wolf Resorts stated Zamias Services, Inc. of Johnstown, Pennsylvania will co-develop a hotel-water park resort that will be attached to the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills. Zamias owns the mall in Tarentum, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh along Pennsylvania Route 28. The water park is intended to stimulate activity at the mall which has struggled with vacancies since it opened in 2005.[5][16] More information about when construction will begin has yet to be announced.

On June 28, 2010, Great Wolf Resorts signed license and management agreements for another Great Wolf Lodge location in Garden Grove, California. The hotel will be developed by McWhinney and located near Disneyland. Hotel construction was scheduled to begin in 2011.[6] An official opening date has yet to be announced, but they plan on having it opening by June 30th, 2015. Groundbreaking on the hotel will start near late Spring 2014.

In November 2011, Great Wolf Resorts announced consideration for another Great Wolf Lodge location in New Baltimore, New York, which would be the state's first Great Wolf Lodge. More information about when the hotel will start groundbreaking and an official opening date has yet to be announced.[17] Leisure Business Advisors, a company that assists in planning and development of leisure projects, conducted a generally positive analysis of a feasibility study to build the waterpark resort and submitted its findings on February 24, 2012.[18]

On May 1, 2012, Great Wolf announced that they were adding a new amenity or attraction to each of their resorts in time for the summer season. In addition, they are spending over $4 million renovating the company's first two locations in Wisconsin Dells, WI and Sandusky, Ohio.[19]

On June 18, 2013, the Fitchburg, Massachusetts City Council approved a special permit filed by Great Wolf Resorts for the expansion of the Holiday Inn and Coco Key water park located on Royal Plaza Drive off of Route 31 in Fitchburg.[20] Great Wolf will be purchasing both the hotel and water park and re-branding them as a "Great Wolf Lodge." This will be the first Great Wolf Lodge in New England.


Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas
Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio. It is located next to Kings Island amusement park.
3 tube slides in Mason, Ohio. The slides on the left and right are Alberta Falls and the slide in the middle is Triple Twist.

Great Wolf Lodge locations and year of opening:[3]

City Year Opened
Wisconsin Dells, WI 1997
Sandusky, OH 2001
Traverse City, MI 2003
Kansas City, KS 2003
Williamsburg, VA 2005
Pocono Mountains, PA 2005
Niagara Falls, ON 2006
Mason, OH 2006
Grapevine, TX 2007
Grand Mound, WA 2008
Charlotte/Concord, NC 2009

Previous locations:

Locations under construction:

Possible future locations:

Other brands[edit]

Great Wolf Lodge also manages the following brands:[22]

  • MagiQuest - Action adventure scavenger hunt for fun or competition which electronically captures achievements with a tracked score
  • Cub Club - Fun and educational craft and activity center with nature-themed programming
  • Scooops - Spa experience created just for kids with ice cream themed treatments

In pop culture[edit]

Great Wolf's CEO Kim Schaefer was featured in the U.S. version of TV's Undercover Boss, which included visits to several lodges where she worked alongside a lifeguard supervisor, front desk clerk, and restaurant waitstaff as well as participated in the children's program.[23][24]


  1. ^ "New Attractions Announced for New Great Wolf Lodge". Business Wire. 24 May 2004. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Corporate Profile". Great Wolf Resorts. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "History". Great Wolf Resorts. 2009. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  4. ^ "For generations, Andrew Watermans run Dells hotels". 14 December 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Great Wolf Resorts Announces License and Management Agreement for New Great Wolf Lodge in Pittsburgh, PA". Great Wolf Resorts. 13 January 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Great Wolf Resorts Announces License and Management Agreement for New Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove, CA". Great Wolf Resorts. 28 June 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Ahmed, Azam (March 13, 2012). "Apollo to Acquire Water Park Operator for $703 Million". New York Times. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  8. ^ Pearson, Sophia (March 15, 2012). "Apollo Bid for Great Wolf Resorts Challenged by Shareholders". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  9. ^ Newman, Judy (March 31, 2012). "Could shareholder backlash sink Great Wolf deal?". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Barusch, Ronald (April 22, 2012). "Dealpolitik: Great Wolf Shows Shortcomings of Banker Valuation Opinions". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  11. ^ State Journal Staff (April 6, 2012). "Deal to buy Great Wolf approved by board after Apollo increases offer". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  12. ^ a b De La Merced, Michael (April 8, 2012). "Private Equity Firms Duel Over Water Park Operator". New York Times' Dealbook. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Harden, Mark (April 23, 2012). "KSL Capital cries uncle in Great Wolf bidding war". Denver Business Journal. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  14. ^ Lachapelle, Tara (March 23, 2012). "Leon Black’s Bid Gets No Respect as Great Wolf Surges: Real M&A". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  15. ^ TheStreet Wire (April 11, 2012). "Great Wolf Stock Hits New 52-Week High (WOLF)". The Street. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  16. ^ "Great Wolf plans water park near Pittsburgh". La Crosse Tribune. 
  17. ^ Antrim, Doron (November 16, 2011). "Great Wolf under scrutiny". Hudson-Catskill Newspapers. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  18. ^ "Consultant Review of Proposed Great Wolf Lodge in Greene County". Leisure Business Advisors, LLC. February 24, 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  19. ^ "Great Wolf Lodge Invests in Family Fun in 2012". Great Wolf Resorts, Inc. May 1, 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Great Wolf Resorts Announces Sale of Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan, WI". Reuters. March 24, 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ "'Undercover Boss' returns to area". The Cincinnati Enquirer. 2010-10-03. Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  24. ^ Huff, Richard (4 October 2010). "Great Wolf Resorts CEO Kim Schaefer works all over the company on 'Undercover Boss'". New York Daily News. Retrieved 4 October 2010. 

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