Hefty government  incentives  lure  Great Wolf to Cecil County

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Good afternoon,

Cecil County and one of its municipalities are digging deep into their economic development bag of tricks to land the $200 million Great Wolf Lodge in Perryville, about 20 miles west of Newark.

TheCecil Whig passed along a study commissioned by the Town of Perryville on the costs and benefits of the massive resort that would include hundreds of hotel rooms, a water park, restaurants and conference center. Word of the project first surfaced in December.

The town andCecil County are offering an incentive package totaling nearly $92 million over a quarter century. Much of that money comes from taking the hotel room tax that would go to Perryville, with the town kicking the proceeds back to Great Wolf as a grant.

The report goes on to estimate that the resort will support approximately 600 full and part-time jobs at the lodge itself and nearly “990 jobs in total once visitor spending and multiplier effects are considered.” The jobs would generate nearly $30 million in annual payrolls and drawhalf a million visitors each year.

While many will view the package as corporate welfare, it is clear, Great Wolf would notcome to Perryville without tax breaks.

The strategy is common in rural areas near busy highways. Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops have won sweet deals with local governments by claiming their outdoor stores will draw tourist traffic

The Perryville location does not fit the profile of other locations, which are located in popular tourist destinations. The company got its start in Wisconsin Dells, a long-time tourist mecca loaded with waterparks and other attractions that draw millions from the Chicago area.

Harder to determine is whether the impact of Great Wolf would rub off on the adjacent Hollywood Casino, which ekes out a living in the crowded Mid-Atlantic gambling market. A nearby outlet mall closed as the popular form of retailing moved to big complexes.

Backers of Great Wolf point out the Chesapeake Overlook site has room for housing and other businesses.

Sage did not take a look at neighboring Delaware in assessing the impact of the project.

If history is any guide, Great Wolf would provide a modest boost to the New Castle County economy in construction jobs and through the array of services that could be easily served from Delaware. Better yet, government won’t foot part of the bill.

The resort won’t help the Delaware hotel and meeting business for obvious reasons. Moreover, Great Wolf patrons don’t stray far from the property and use of the waterpark is usually limited to its patrons.

The study goes on to recommend an outreach effort by the community to highlight dining options, attractions, etc. in capturing tourist dollars.

In the meantime, signs point to the complex moving forward at a faster than expected rate with a projected opening in 2022.

Until constructiontakes place, projects of this magnitude are not done deals. Just ask Fredericksburg, VA, which saw Great Wolf rival Kalahari walk away from a resort that appeared to fell victim to a slow recovery following the recession of 2009.

In other words, Great Wolf and Cecil County can’t afford to wait around for the next downturn.

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