Texans can now venture into a north woods atmosphere without ever leaving the state. It is the perfect ambiance for winter, but look closer. Great Wolf Resorts, Inc. is the parent company of the developer of the resort that defies winter weather, where a perfect 84 degrees will be maintained inside a mammoth 80,000-square-foot indoor water park — summer or winter. The Great Wolf Lodge has come to North Texas.
Turner Construction Co. served as the project's general contractor responsible for the hotel and water park shell, while the Neuman Group of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, was the contractor for the aquatics/water park in the growing Grapevine vacation destination area.
Neuman's design team of Brian Freber, Scott Stefanc, Ryan Smedema, and Jamie Umland had to take special construction considerations with the foundation for the water park wing. The existing site soil had expansive characteristics when in a saturated state.
"To alleviate this problem, the entire water park footprint was over excavated 14 feet and the expansive material was replaced with conditioned structural fill compacted while holding optimum moisture content," described Gary Brill, Neuman project manager. "The difficulty during construction involved maintaining the conditioned fill in its optimum state while excavating and backfilling this material continually for 12 months. To complicate matters, we did a large majority of the water park earth work without the building erected during a June that was the second wettest on record in North Texas. Once the bad soil condition was rectified, conventional steel-reinforced, cast-in-place pool shells were constructed."
To maintain comfort for water lovers, the facility utilizes 435,000 gallons of heated water and a filtration system that filters over a half a million gallons of water per hour. The water is filtrated through Neptune Benson "Defender" regenerative media filters and heated using three Thermal Solution boilers combined with Taco heat exchangers sized appropriately, one for each of the eight pool filtration systems, according to Brill.
Although Great Wolf Resorts has developed similar lodges in other parts of the country, including the Mason, Ohio, location also built by Turner Construction, the Grapevine facility posed its own challenges. Like Texas, this facility is larger than any of the others — in square footage and in height, according to Matt Papenfus, vice president and general manager of Turner's Dallas office.
"Great Wolf Lodges in other locations have been built only three stories tall," said Papenfus. "Grapevine's Great Wolf stands eight stories tall. The atrium rises five open stories with restaurants overlooking a Great Clock Tower and fireplace central features. These features and others throughout the facility had to be modified for size from the design used at the other resort locations."
On one hand, the specialty contractors were onboard, meaning there was no need to spend time researching the many specialty building products for the north woods theme. On the other hand, the format that had been used in prior built facilities had to be redesigned for the Grapevine resort, according to Papenfus.
When the roof of the water park turned out to be too low for the rides, the overall height was raised by adding a cupola to the roof design. The truss spans of the water park were created with laminated wood beams with steel girder trusses supporting an all-wood ceiling. The exposed wood ceiling will hold up the best in the humid environment.
Not as many great northern forests as appear gave their all for this construction. While the finish-out makes use of the rough timber look, the Great Wolf Lodge ambiance in not all wood, but designer materials in many cases.
"Because Great Wolf set a timetable to open for business before Christmas 2007, we devised an aggressive construction schedule with multiple flow lines and critical paths," Papenfus explained. "Each wing was treated as an individual project, each with its own superintendent: Walt Comis, James Glass and Frank Schautteet." Coordinating the entire sequence was the management team of Greg Mersch, project executive; Bob Gaston, project manager; Chris Lang and Everett Willis, project engineers; and Carl Daugherty, MEP coordinator.
The 450,000-square-foot Great Wolf Lodge was completed in only 17 months — two and one-half months early. Even before the grand opening, Turner Construction had broken ground on a 200-room expansion.