County board moves ahead with Great Wolf Resort development

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors took a step on Tuesday to bringing North America’s largest water park resort in the county. The board approved a request from the Tulare County Resource Management Agency to receive an Economic Impact Analysis for the Great Wolf Resort. Great Wolf plans to place the resort at Highway 99 and Caldwell Avenue just west of Visalia where the Sequoia Gateway Commerce Center is being developed.

The 35-acre resort would include a 525-room hotel with an indoor water park, restaurants, meeting space and a family activity center. There are 19 Great Wolf Resorts located throughout the U.S. And Canada. Great Wolf Resort is billed as “a cruise ship that’s permanently parked” as virtually all of the features of the resort are indoors. As part of the Economic Impact Analysis the board approved an agreement between the county and Great Wolf in which the county and resort would share the revenues from the transient occupancy taxes that are charged to guests who stay at the hotel.

Great Wolf and the county would share the TOT taxes for the first 15 years. Great Wolf would receive 100 percent of the TOT proceeds over the first five years. Over the next five years the county would receive 25 percent of the proceeds and the resort would receive 75 percent. Over the final five years the split would be 50-50. After 15 years, the county would receive all of the TOT proceeds. In addition the county would also agree not to provide any financial incentives to an indoor water park that would be 5,000 square feet or larger for 10 years.

In addition Great Wolf would use a portion of its TOT revenue to pay for some of the impact fees it will be charged for the project. County staff reported the revenue sharing agreement with the TOT taxes was necessary for Great Wolf to move ahead with the project. The company that manages the resort will officially be known as GWR Tulare LLC. “To assist with the significant investment associated with the development, GWR Tulare LLC has requested to share a portion of transient occupancy tax revenues that are generated by the project and the deferral of certain impact which will be recaptured through TOT revenue,” county staff reported. “Without these incentive Great Wolf Resorts would not be able to move forward with financing the construction of the proposed development project.”

County staff also stated the incentives provided are similar to what other areas have provided to Great Wolf and similar large-scale resorts. It’s anticipated the final map and development agreement will be completed by the end of the year. Once construction begins its estimated it will take two years. The construction project alone is expected to create 1,255 jobs while the resort once its operating is expected to create 660 jobs.

County staff stated it anticipated the resort would draw more than 600,000 visitors a year. “Hotel water park guests are typically families and can include extended families and groups of friends and family,” the county staff report stated. County staff added those who visit the resort will typically stay for 2-3 days or more and will travel a few hours to come to the resort. “Visitors to the proposed resort would likely come from throughout the San Joaquin Valley and beyond,” county staff stated.

County staff also reported the resort should also benefit the area as a whole economically as some who visit the resort will also go to other businesses to make retail purchases and may eat at other restaurants as well. County staff stated those who don’t state at the hotel who visit the resort will mostly come from Tulare County.

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