Great Wolf Lodge: Become a Part of Our Community

simsBy Nicole Sims
Published: Jan 24, 2016 
IT WOULD appear that Squamish has done a great job of getting itself noticed, as the Jim Pattison Group is in negotiations to build their newest Great Wolf Lodge in our beautiful town. Consisting of themed rooms and a large waterslide park, the resort could bring as many as 670 jobs (30 per cent of them full-time, according to a report), and more than $10 million per year in payroll to our small town. The resort will need to use water, lots of it, but it’s run through a recycling system, so after an initial big draw it shouldn’t need much more than any other hotel.
This sounds like it should be a huge plus for all of us: A new corporate tax-payer, hundreds of citizens with decent-paying jobs adding to our tax base, yet another draw for tourists, and a long-dreamed-of waterpark for our kids to play in.  But here’s where if this were the narration at the beginning of a show on Nickelodeon you would now hear the sound of needle scratching across a record, because, sorry kids, unless your parents are willing to rent a very expensive room, you won’t be playing in the waterpark.
You see, Great Wolf Lodge Resorts don’t allow day passes, or even season’s passes; Great Wolf Lodge is strictly ‘stay to play’.
This sticks in the craw of most of the people I’ve talked to about this.  It strikes some as a sign that not only are Squamish’s real estate and rental prices making this town seem more like an exclusive off-shoot of West Vancouver, but now the amenities will no longer be available for use to the people who call this place home, and who provide the labour force for the resort.
A guests-only destination is at odds with the spirit of Squamish, the welcoming Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. The activities that have drawn people here, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, camping, rafting, kiteboarding and skiing among them, are all open to anyone who care to participate. Local tourist destinations like the Sea to Sky Gondola and Whistler’s ski hills don’t have any requirement that people book a room to use the amenities.
Yes, the Jim Pattison Group has used this business model across North America for many years, but just because something has always been done this way doesn’t mean that it should continue to be done this way. For a different model of how to keep locals feeling happy and welcome, look across the water a short way to Tigh Na Mara Resort and Spa in Parksville. They’ve got a lovely facility, and locals are welcome to use it as long as they pay the spa fee. Tigh Na Mara benefits from including locals in their customer base, and doesn’t have to limit themselves to just the number of people they can accommodate in their rooms.
Great Wolf Lodges in other towns include fun amenities like spas, arcades, ropes courses, and the waterpark. For our children to be denied access unless we pay to stay in a town where we live seems like a business model that we don’t want to encourage. Local people can be a valuable asset to this business providing customers during times when tourists are scarce and bringing in family members from out of town. 
Rather than exclude locals from the facility, GWL should offer locals special rates during the off-season, and provide an incentive program offering free stays if they bring in a certain number of visitors. Working with our community, making itself a valuable part of it, will work out far better in the long run for Great Wolf Lodge than setting itself apart. In Squamish, we all play together.
Nicole Sims is a mother of two 
and has lived in Squamish for 18 years.


  1. Dave Colwell says:

    Anyone who has ever stayed at an All Inclusive Resort (and there are many in Squamish who have) will have certainly ventured out from their accommodations from time to time to sample what the surrounding area has to offer and, dare I say it…spend some of their money there and do some shopping. So, what’s the problem? Most of these resorts promote such things including ancillary activities.
    Just because you can’t use the water slide or any other internal facility, there should no reason to object to such a plan.
    Quit the nay-saying already! When is your next visit to Cuba or Puerto Vallarta?

  2. Caroline Campbell says:

    Excuse my ignorance as I have never stayed at an all inclusive resort, but do they keep locals out of their facilities, who say want to eat at their restaurants? If the locals can afford to eat there that is. The problem is a resort with these kinds of amenities would appeal to Squamish locals. Especially since the community now has so many children living here. Would it hurt them in any way to offer, even if only in the off season, rates to locals? They don’t have to offer cut rates, nobody is saying that, just rates for people who live here and don’t want to stay in their hotel to use the amenities. Other hotels in the area actually have rates for locals to use their pools and fitness rooms. What is the difference really?

  3. Dave Colwell says:

    If a waterfront hotel proposal were to include a private dock, should it be open to the public to avoid any surrounding objection. Should all spas in all hotels be public too? When I pay substantial money for an occasional nice holiday hotel stay, I might expect some exclusivity for such a special destination without the overcrowding which would be implied…..Just sayin’.
    I once went to a hotel where the pool was public and the guests could hardly squeeze themselves in at most times…never again. If a business can afford to provide facilities for guests only, they should be able to. Remember, it will be asked to pay proportionate taxes to the local authorities which means the public get benefit, plus all the other things mentioned in my previous post..

  4. ” Remember, it will be asked to pay proportionate taxes to the local authorities which means the public get benefit”

    Not meaning to paraphrase you Davey , but do you really believe that any new tax revenue will benefit the resident tax payer? You know as well as I do that all the District will do is hire more useless exempt staff to tell us that our tax bill is going to go up again!

  5. Dave Colwell says:

    If you are the Rick I think you are I would remind you of a proposed chip plant in the past….I don’t think that had a huge amount to offer in tax benefit or in enjoyment for the general public …. only for the proponents…..what’s the difference? I did not oppose the chip plant and neither, apparently, did you. This Wolf Lodge thing has every right to proceed IMO.

  6. I’m not saying I am against the Lodge, It’s just the proportionate taxes to the local authorities will disappear into the black hole to be spent on an overstaffed Municipal office. I think maybe the location could be elsewhere. I know the stench of rotting salmon and a under size waste water plant emitting an unpleasant order would put me off.

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