Does sunny Southern California really need an indoor water park?

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California’s first indoor water park will debut in mid-February when the oft-delayed $300-million woodsy-themed Great Wolf Lodge finally opens in the Disneyland area. During a press preview on Wednesday, I walked through the framed and airtight Great Wolf Lodge Southern California hotel and entertainment complex still under construction in Garden Grove about a mile from Disneyland. Crews continue to work on the project, with exposed drywall, plywood, insulation, ductwork and I-beams still present throughout the 328,000-square-foot building. None of the rustic mountain cabin theming was in place yet in the public areas of the hotel. The rooms, which run from $250 to $600 depending on the season, have a cozy log cabin design with wilderness and outdoors themes.

The water park remains further from completion, with a water play structure and a few slides already in place. A pile of dirt sits at the center of the 75-foot-tall complex that is about the size of a college or pro football indoor practice facility.

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In the works since 2010 when the project was first announced, the 105,000-square-foot indoor water park in Garden Grove will be the largest in Great Wolf’s history and among the biggest in the world. Of course, it will be dwarfed by the world’s largest indoor water park: Germany’s 710,000-square-foot Tropical Island, housed in a former blimp hangar. And at approximately 2 1/2 acres, the Garden Grove indoor water park will be far smaller than a typical 15- to 20-acre outdoor water park.

Although the Los Angeles area boasts a 73% chance of sunshine throughout the year, according to the National Weather Service, none of the local water parks operate very far outside the summer season. Knott’s Soak City, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor and Raging Waters San Dimas typically run a weekends-only schedule in September before closing down for the season.

Great Wolf operates 12 other water park hotels in colder North American climates that promote the year-round destinations as “weatherproof fun.” The Wisconsin-based chain has built several hotels near theme parks and water parks, including locations near Cedar Point and Kings Island in Ohio, Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia and Schlitterbahn Kansas City. The first Great Wolf Lodge opened in 1997 in Wisconsin Dells, a tiny Wisconsin town with 18 water parks that rightly proclaims itself the “water park capital of the world.”

Like all Great Wolf lodges, the California water park will be for use only by those staying at the hotel, although day passes will be available for visitors of registered guests. A digital wristband will provide access to the water park while also serving as a room key and electronic wallet.

The indoor water park will feature a mat racer slide, tube slides, body slides, wave pool, lazy river, interactive play structure and kiddie water playground. Among the highlights in Garden Grove: A six-story funnel slide, a surfing simulator and a trapdoor-launched 360-degree looping slide. The marquee attraction is expected to be a Slideboard that combines a Guitar Hero-like video game with a water slide.

Unlike the Great Wolf Lodges in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Garden Grove hotel won’t be getting a hydromagnetic water coaster that propels raft riders over whoop-de-do hills and down high-speed drops.

With the continuing drought in California, Great Wolf will undoubtably face questions about water usage when the 565,000-gallon park opens next year. Officials say the indoor park will recirculate up to 90% of its water and experience less evaporation than outdoor parks.

The Garden Grove property expects to use 149,500 gallons of water per day, according to a 2010 report obtained by the OC Weekly. That translates to more than 50 million gallons of water per year.

Billed as a family-friendly resort, the Garden Grove hotel will include several non-water-park-related activities, including a motion simulator ride, miniature golf, video game arcade, miniature bowling alley and kids spa. Wiley the wolf and five other costumed characters will make regular meet-and-greet appearances.

The opening of the new lodge also brings the first MagiQuest live-action role-playing game to California. Using infrared-emitting magic wands, players conduct a dozen interactive scavenger hunts throughout the hotel, including a battle with a dragon. The MagiQuest wands will also animate small animatronic animals in some hotel suites. Mercifully, there is an override switch for parents with the noise-emitting creatures automatically switching off at 11 p.m.

The 600-room suites-only lodge will also feature seven dining options, including sit-down restaurants, a bakery and a Dunkin’ Donuts.

Read more at latimes.com