Great Wolf Lodge breaks ground
Kansas Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer is a happy man whenever he sees the Kansas Speedway and the up and coming tourism district.
"I just smile every time I drive by all of this because I remember when we started all of this a couple of years ago," Sherrer said. "There wasn't quite the enthusiasm there is today and that enthusiasm is going to grow and grow."
Sherrer spoke to a crowd of about 150 who gathered Thursday morning for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Great Wolf Lodge.
Construction on the hotel, which includes an indoor water park, is expected to take 12 months.
The $51.5 million Great Wolf Lodge will be built in the tourism district a 400-acre area that will include a Cabela's outdoor outfitters store, Nebraska Furniture Mart, a multi-complex movie theatre and an outdoor mall and restaurants all within walking distance of Kansas Speedway.
Also on Thursday, Bill Crandall, of Zimmer Management Group, the master developer of the tourism district, announced the name for the tourism district: Village West.
The name symbolizes the location in western Wyandotte County as well as the sense of working together as a village.
Sherrer said Village West will be a "first-class" tourism district.
"It's going to be important to us for many reasons," Sherrer said. "It is a tourism destination. It does make a difference when tourists don't go through our state, but they stop and enjoy it."
The new growth has created changes in the area, including opening job and career opportunities, he said.
"This is a different Kansas than we have known before," Sherrer said. "It's a great addition to what we have had."
When all the building has been completed, Village West will have created 4,000 jobs all new to the area, Crandall said.
The tourism district is projected to draw from 7 million to 9 million visitors a year and annual sales of $400 million.
This is all new for the area, he said.
"Just literally eight or nine months ago, this was still a dream," Crandall said. "Until they start building, you don't really believe it."
Carol Marinovich, mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City Kan.,, called the Great Wolf Lodge "a positive addition to Village West."
"It ties in perfectly with what the board of commissioners had envisioned from the very beginning," Marinovich said. "When we went for the speedway, it wasn't just for the speedway. But that the speedway would be the spark to ignite and generate development next to it."
Cindy Cash, president of the Kansas City, Kan., Area Chamber of Commerce, said she hopes Village West will enable youth from Wyandotte County to return to live and work in the county after college.