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Foxwoods signs on for indoor water park collaboration

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. - The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation is planning to build a family attraction near its massive Foxwoods Resort Casino - an indoor water park on tribally owned fee land that will be a commercial venture providing taxes to the local community.

The tribe issued a press release Sept. 20, announcing its plans to partner with Wisconsin-based Great Wolf Resorts Inc. to develop a Great Wolf Lodge resort near Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Great Wolf Resorts operates nine family-oriented resorts in six states and Canada under the brand names Great Wolf Lodge and Blue Harbor Resort. The company is publicly traded (NASDAQ: WOLF).

The lodge facilities are first-class, full-service, family destination resorts, according to the release. They provide all-suite guest rooms and an indoor family entertainment area. In addition to water parks, offerings include a children's craft and activity room focusing on ''edutainment,'' an interactive adventure game, an arcade, a tech center with Internet stations, and other amenities.

''We have been talking for some time about the exciting prospects the tribe has in bringing taxable development to the communities surrounding the reservation,'' Tribal Council Treasurer Rodney Butler said in a statement. ''This popular family-oriented resort will add a whole new dimension to our existing resort. It will also mean a giant step forward to reach the tribe's long-desired goal of making what we have into a true destination resort,'' Butler said.

Butler declined to specify the exact location for the proposed water park project.

''We have a preferred location under consideration, but we have options available due to the fact that the surrounding towns have been truly cooperative in supporting future economic development and understand the shared opportunities associated with building out the Mashantucket resort,'' Butler said.

The preferred location is in the town of Ledyard, one of three towns that border Mashantucket, on fee land that the tribe purchased some time ago. The other towns are Preston and North Stonington.

''We're planning to go before the Ledyard zoning board as early as we can next month,'' said Bruce MacDonald, manager of media relations for the tribe.

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The agreement with Great Wolf Resorts Inc. is contingent on receiving all the required approvals.

''The initial reaction has been favorable. The town of Ledyard for years has wanted the tribe to develop spinoff entities that could help them and help their tax base, and this would be a significant manifestation of just that,'' MacDonald said.

MacDonald could not provide the estimated cost of the project.

''They were reluctant this early in the project to start putting numbers and sizes on it. If approved, it will be a large project,'' MacDonald explained.

The decision has not yet been made on what elements of a Great Wolf Lodge will be included, MacDonald said, but ''it won't be markedly different from Great Lodges elsewhere.''

The land approval process could take several months, but once approved, the tribe plans to move ahead expeditiously, MacDonald said.

''We're hoping to do this in the short term rather than the long terms. It takes a while to

build something once you get the approvals, but we're moving ahead as fast as we can,'' MacDonald added.

The tribe's archaeologist will survey the site for artifacts before any construction begins, MacDonald said.

The water park project was announced as the tribe nears completion of a new $700 million casino and hotel tower next to Foxwoods in partnership with MGM Mirage.