2010-07-01 / Local & State

Five Indoor Water Parks May Someday Call Poconos Home

STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) – The Poconos, which in days gone by billed itself as “Honeymoon Capital of the World,’’ may be able to rebrand itself as the leading East Coast site for indoor water parks if several proposed projects come to fruition.

Under the proposals, five water parks would call the region home, four of them in Tannersville alone, making up 13 acres of indoor water park space and a total of 2,500 hotel rooms between planned and existing resorts.

Two of the three prospective groups have already submitted plans to Pocono Township proposing an indoor water park and hotel, and another has informed the township of its intention to build one. They would join Great Wolf Lodge, which opened in Tannersville in 2005 with a water park, and Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony, which built an indoor water park in 2008.

The $140 million project at Camelback Mountain Resort is awaiting final permitting and would include a hotel and a 100,000-square-foot indoor water park.

The Outback Lodge and Waterpark at the old Summit Resort is still seeking permits and more financing. Tony Farda, whose family owned the resort since 1967, said plans include a 100,000- square-foot indoor water park with room to expand for an outdoor water park as well, and 411 rooms. When Summit Resort closed, it had 184 rooms.

The biggest project could be Spa Castle Pocono at the old Birchwood Resort, although its engineers have yet to submit formal plans for the proposed 600-room resort that would include an indoor and outdoor water park.

Great Wolf, which pioneered the indoor water park concept in the Poconos, said it welcomes the competition.

“For us, it’s much easier to promote our product when there are others like this than to go it alone,’’ said Chris Salerno, local director of sales and marketing. “It’s great for the region.’’

But Jack Kalins, president and CEO of Split Rock, said anyone getting into the business should prepare to struggle as long as the economy does.

The resort’s H20ooohh! 53,000-square-foot indoor water park opened in the fall of 2008 but is only reaching about 75 percent of the revenue projected in its feasibility study, Kalins said. Until there is more stable financing, an indoor water park is a huge gamble.

“I still think the water park is a good amenity for the resort, but it’s an extremely difficult cash-flow business,’’ he said.

Berry said the projects could help the Poconos become one of the East Coast’s biggest family-friendly destinations.

“This takes the Pocono Mountains and puts us on the map as a tourism mecca,’’ he said. “The people who come here for water parks are going to realize all of the things the Poconos have to offer.’’

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