Great Wolf Lodge will be latest Indian country entertainment destination

Above: A rendering of the upcoming Great Wolf Lodge in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. It will become part of the Talking Stick Entertainment District. Real Estate | 25 Mar, 2019 |

One of the most anticipated projects the Valley has seen in decades is coming together on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community land in Scottsdale. The state’s first indoor water park, located next to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, is in the stretch run of construction, with sights set on a late summer/early fall completion. The designers and builders of the new Great Wolf Lodge Arizona have been just as excited about working on it as those who will visit the resort once it’s up and running.

“In my experience, this project is unlike any other in the state,” said Ben Goetter, vice president and general manager for Mortenson, the general contractor on the destination resort. “Great Wolf Lodge Arizona is a unique project, because we have a large interior waterpark that will be conditioned for year-round use. As the first and only indoor waterpark in Arizona that families, natives and tourists can use annually, it will be attractive to many users due to its numerous amenities.”

“We can’t wait for the opening. I’ll be taking my family.,” said Sean Mason, project manager for IMCOR, which is handling the mechanical work on the project. “I will say that our staff is eagerly awaiting Contractor Appreciation Day at the waterpark.”

From a design standpoint, Great Wolf Lodge Arizona presented challenges due to the size, it features 350 guest rooms, along with an 85,000 square foot indoor waterpark, a family entertainment area as well as retail and dining areas.

Gensler, the architectural firm on the project, did exhaustive research on both the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, where the facility is located, and the Great Wolf Lodge brand.

“The design of each lodge transports guests to a north woods cabin with architecture that creates a uniquely branded space,” said Gensler principal and design director Tom Sze. “Our challenge was to develop and design the story of a north woods-themed lodge while seamlessly fitting in within the local setting. We took the time to learn about the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community traditions, artwork, culture, fashion, and the surrounding natural environments. It was important to respect and honor the local community and culture by designing a lodge that fit into the surrounding environment.”

Sze said once the project is completed, visitors should be on the lookout for culturally-inspired graphics throughout the property. Other design factors are much easier to spot.

“The angled porte-cochere roof, that is the signature architecture element of the lodge,” Sze said. “And of course, the Great Wolf statue that welcomes you at the front.”

The Arizona lodge will be the 19th Great Wolf Lodge in North America. Goetter and Mortenson also did their homework when getting ready to build such a unique facility.

“The Mortenson team traveled on several occasions to multiple Great Wolf Lodge project sites that were either completed or under construction,” Goetter said. “These efforts allowed us to understand the customers unique requirements and talk to previous general contractors to gather insight and host lessons learned sessions. This has proven to be very beneficial.”

Building this unique project required different approaches. Goetter said that the three buildings that make up the resort called for three different building methods.

“The waterpark was constructed using tilt-up construction, while the Family Entertainment Center is light gauge steel framed structure and the hotel itself is a high-rise structure with pre-manufactured exterior panels,” Goetter said.

For Goetter and the Mortenson team, the waterpark is the crown jewel of the project and a lot of construction focus has been on creating the unique design of the waterpark. Helping bring this design to life has been major trade partners Neuman Pools, Suntec, Corbins Electric and IMCOR, among many others. For the waterpark, IMCOR is installing more than 30,000 lineal feet of pool piping (nearly five miles), ranging from half-inch to 18 inches in diameter. There are 30 pumps, along with surge tanks, valves and fittings.

“Certainly, there are several features of the water park that are unique,” said Mason. “Each require specific flow rates and directional adjustments. Also, while not necessarily unique, the scope of the project alone is impressive.”

The Great Wolf Lodge Arizona project is just the latest in a growing cluster of entertainment projects to be developed on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community land. Another project is under construction just north of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament is nearing completion of a 79,000 square foot venue, with an anticipated summer opening. These two latest projects join other attractions like OdySea Aquarium, iFly Phoenix, Butterfly Wonderland and Talking Stick Resort & Casino and Topgolf Scottsdale.

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