The grand opening of Great Wolf Lodge in Bloomington on Tuesday went off with a howl.
The North Woods-themed hotel and water park officially opened after renovations to the former Water Park of America.
It is the 15th nationwide location and the first in Minnesota for Great Wolf Resorts Inc., one of the country’s largest operators of water parks.
“Finding a property like this … is unusual for us,” said Rubén Rodríguez, Great Wolf chief executive.
Great Wolf Resorts, which started in Wisconsin Dells, purchased the water park and connected Radisson hotel for $39.1 million in February from an affiliate of Connecticut-based real estate investment firm Wheelock Street Capital.
The complex has been shuttered since the beginning of the year for renovations. The process was quick compared to building a resort from the ground up, Rodríguez said.
He said executives were excited for the potential to serve families in the Twin Cities, who previously had to drive several hours to reach a Great Wolf in Wisconsin Dells.
There is another significant difference between Great Wolf Lodge and the former Water Park of America. Access to the 75,000-square-foot water park at Great Wolf is reserved for hotel guests except for event reservations like birthday parties. The exclusivity enhances the safety of the park as well as makes it less crowded, Rodríguez said.
He said the proximity to the Mall of America may help draw more guests.
“It really does nothing but enhance the Mall of America. … I think we’ll see more families coming to the area,” said Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead.
While the footprint of the eight-floor complex remained mostly the same, several more entertainment features have been added in areas that used to be offices and empty space. A high-hanging rope course, bowling alley and additional dining spaces were added upstairs. The first floor includes an arcade, rock-climbing wall, MagiQuest live-action game course along with a mining game that lets kids pan for gemstones.
Besides the Great Wolf-branded dining options, there are also some well-known food and beverage shops like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dunkin’ Donuts. Three bars for adults have been added.
Technological enhancements to the water features include a timer for kids to race each other on the slides. And then there’s “Splash Cinema,” which allows thrill seekers on the raft ride to choose an immersive experience, like a thunderstorm or winter wonderland, to be shown around them.
The 404-room hotel was also updated.