TANNERSVILLE — As snow fell on Camelback Mountain on Tuesday, company officials were in the warmth of the Glen Lodge sharing details of an under-construction $163 million, 453-room Camelback Lodge & Indoor Waterpark slated to open in 2015.
The water park will be the largest indoor one in the eastern United States, and the resort will be the third indoor water park in Monroe County featuring adjoining lodges with more than 400 rooms.
The five-floor, mountain-modern style architectural lodge will feature: four restaurants, a 10,000 square-foot luxury spa, a conference center, and a 125,000-square-foot indoor water park – the largest indoor water park ever constructed in a single phase in the United States.
In addition, 25,000 square feet of meeting and conference space will be available when the project wraps up and opens to the public in February 2015.
The lodge and indoor water park is the largest capital improvement in Camelback’s 50-year history, mountain officials said and will add to the resort’s four-season attractions already in place, which includes skiing, Camelbeach outdoor water park, zip lining and a snowtubing park. Camelback is located off Interstate 80 and Route 611.
“This is an exciting time for Camelback Mountain Resort,” co-owner Arthur Berry III said in a statement. He was not in attendance at the event that drew tourism and ski resort officials from throughout the region.
Early indications are that close to 1,000 jobs could be created by the new facility.
Resort co-owner Ken Ellis said the idea of an indoor water park was first discussed in 2004. Since then, other indoor water parks have opened or are being planned in the Poconos.
Another water park
The announcement comes two months after Kalahari Resorts broke ground on a $230 million indoor water park and resort to be built on 150 acres adjoining the Inn at Pocono Manor property a few miles from Camelback.
That project includes 457 guest rooms and suites in addition to a 100,000-square-foot indoor water park and seasonal outdoor water park and a 65,000-square-foot convention center with 15 meeting rooms. In addition, it will include a 30,000-square-foot family entertainment center, 6,000 square feet of retail space and three full-service restaurants.
That project is expected to bring 1,500 jobs.
The addition of the two multimillion projects is quickly making the Pocono Mountains, once a honeymoon destination, a destination for water park enthusiasts.
Other indoor water park venues throughout the Poconos include Great Wolf Lodge in Scotrun, with its 401 rooms, and H20ooohh! at Split Rock Resort in Kidder Township.
Camelbeach in Tannersville and the water park on Montage Mountain in Moosic offer outdoor water parks. So too will Blue Mountain Ski Area and Resort near Palmerton, which is building a $30 million Summit Splash water park with a 2015 opening date, too.
There are also discussions about at least one more indoor water park on the drawing board for the Tannersville area.
“The Pocono Mountains welcomes the addition of Camelback Lodge & Indoor Waterpark to its already existing tourism landscape of attractions and accommodations,” said Carl Wilgus, president and CEO of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau. “The new lodge and indoor water park combined with Camelback Mountain Resort’s history of quality management and customer service excellence will make this a welcome addition and asset to the Pocono Mountains tourism product.”
Wilgus and others on hand noted that the market’s proximity to major population centers in Philadelphia, New York and the I-95 corridor played a role in water park companies wanting to spend hundreds of millions to be located there.
While some raised the concern that there was a saturation taking place, Wilgus rejected that notion and said companies have studies and data to support plans to locate in the Poconos.
He also said they will complement each other and area businesses to add to the drawing power of the Pocono Mountains as a tourism attraction.
Waterpark Ventures Management Services has been brought on board to handle the project. Owner Pete Helland said he first came to Camelback in 1985 to ski and has fond memories of the resort.
“We fell in love with Camelback that day, and today we’re falling in love with Camelback all over again,” Helland said, noting the special features that the indoor water park will have. Among them are a FlowRider indoor surfing unit and a Texlon transparent roof that allows for natural sunlight all year round.
“We’ll be handing out sun tan lotion in the winter,” Ellis said with a laugh.