Great Wolf Lodge backs out of agreement to build waterpark near Fresno. Here’s what they said

Andy Alfaro/

In an ongoing case of “will-they, won’t they,” Great Wolf Lodge has decided to not move forward on a proposed 35-acre, 525-room hotel and indoor water park planned for the city of Visalia.

The project in Tulare County south of Fresno — part of the larger Sequoia Gateway Commerce Center at Caldwell Avenue and Highway 99 — was slated to break ground in late 2023 and open sometime in 2025.

But even as recently December, the company proffered little in the way of updates and stopped short of confirming much about the project at all, other than a desire to be in the central San Joaquin Valley.

In a statement to The Bee on Tuesday, the company said it appreciated both Tulare County and the City of Visalia for their partnership in what it called an “exploration process,” and that it has “reached mutually agreeable terms with the landowner in Tulare County to terminate our agreement.”

The company says its current priority is to invest in existing resorts, successfully open resorts already under construction and “pursue growth in areas most under-served by Great Wolf Lodge.”

California has two Great Lodge locations with more than 1,000 rooms combined. The resorts, one in northern and one in the southern part of the state, are “less than a four-hour drive distance away from a majority of California residents,” the company said.

Tulare County’s resource management agency confirmed the project has been halted, calling it a question of timing and saying Great Wolf Lodge was not ready to move forward.

“It was a lot of things not aligning for the timing,” said the agency’s associate director, Michael Washam.

But interest in the locations remains.

In fact, the company’s statement implies a possible sale of the property, and Washam confirmed that there is interested in the location, though he gave no further details.

Regarding media reports of a possible Ikea location at that spot, Washam called it a rumor and said he hasn’t heard anything from the company.

Great Wolf Lodge opened the 105,000-square-foot Southern California resort in Garden Grove (south of Disneyland) in 2016. It was the first indoor water park in the state and remains the company’s largest location. The Northern California/Bay Area location opened in Manteca in late June 2021, after being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic for nearly a year.