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Great Wolf Lodge may bring $200 million resort to Cecil County, employing as many as 600 people

Officials in Perryville and Cecil County said Monday they are close to finalizing a deal for a $200 million Great Wolf Lodge on a site in the town next to Hollywood Casino Perryville, just off Interstate 95.

Great Wolf Resorts would build a 500-room resort on 44 acres adjacent to the casino in Chesapeake Overlook, a site long planned as an entertainment district, Perryville Mayor Robert R. Ashby Jr. and the town commissioners announced.

The project would create 450 to 600 jobs if it is completed as expected by the summer of 2022, they said.

A representative of Chicago-based Great Wolf Resorts, which operates indoor water parks with 19 locations across the U.S., did not confirm the project would be built but said the company sees potential for more resorts in the mid-Atlantic and has been in “preliminary” talks with Perryville and Cecil County officials about the potential for a future Great Wolf Lodge.

“We feel Perryville could be a nice fit for us and look forward to continued dialogue with city and county officials, as well as the community at large, as we explore the prospect for a Great Wolf Lodge in Maryland,” said Jason Lasecki, a spokesman for Great Wolf Resorts, in an email.

Town and county officials said the resort, expected to attract a half-million visitors a year, would include an indoor/outdoor water park, a rope course and climbing wall, restaurants, shops and a conference center that can hold up to 1,000 people, officials said.

Chris Moyer, economic development director for Cecil County, said the deal has not been finalized, but that officials have worked “extensively” with the resort developers and “we feel that this is the site for them. We’ve developed a very good working relationship with them.”

Moyer said the project would have enormous economic development and tourism potential for Perryville and surrounding towns in Cecil County, such as Chesapeake City, Port Deposit and Northeast.

“Great Wolf is a very strong brand from a tourism standpoint, and it’s going to be a huge job generator and will be a great economic anchor, literally visible right off I-95,” Moyer said.

On Monday, the Maryland Department of Commerce announced the expansion of the Cecil County Enterprise Zone to include the towns of Perryville and North East, which Lasecki of Great Wolf Resorts noted.

“The I-95 corridor running through Maryland is an area of interest to us, and the state’s establishment of ‘Approved Enterprise Zones’ shows its commitment to new business development in the state,” he said. “There is no question the designation of Perryville as one of the ‘Approved Enterprise Zones’ will be a significant consideration as we further evaluate this opportunity.”

Businesses operating in such areas receive property and state income tax credits in return for job creation and investments.

Town officials reached out to Great Wolf Resorts, which opened its first location in Wisconsin in 1997 and operates its closest resorts in Williamsburg, Va., and the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. The original resort in Wisconsin now offers 76,000 square feet of water park attractions, a project the company has sought to replicate throughout the U.S.

Aside from water parks, the resorts typically include specialty restaurants, arcades, spas and other children’s activities.

The company already was looking at expanding into Maryland when Perryville’s planning director, Diana Battaglia, sent officials there an email proposing the site in Chesapeake Overlook, which had been slated to become a commercial and entertainment development but never developed beyond the casino, which opened in 2010.

“We always had an eye on having other entertainment type attractions on that property,” said Denise Breder, Perryville town administrator.

The 44 acres is part of an approximately 150-acre mixed-use parcel owned by the Stewart Cos., a developer of the nearby Principio Business Park, which is home to Amazon and Restoration Hardware distribution centers.

The Cecil County Council is scheduled to consider resolutions Tuesday to offer Great Wolf Resorts personal property and hotel tax credits, Moyer said. The town of Perryville plans to propose offering similar tax credits at a Jan. 8 meeting.

“I’ve been working hard to bring excitement to our town… meetings and conversations I can finally talk about,” Ashby, Perryville’s mayor, said in the announcement. “This is a great opportunity for all of us and only the beginning.”

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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