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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Family destination makes a splash

Wisconsin Dells

For 150 years, the Wisconsin Dells, has been a family resort community known for resorts that have been owned and operated by the same families for multiple generations.

In the last several decades, those mostly locally owned resorts have been embellished with elaborate indoor and outdoor water parks, earning the Dells the title “Waterpark Capital of the World.”

Because of the area’s tradition of hospitality, adding meetings as a new focus has simply meant adding meeting facilities and extra guest rooms to many of the existing resorts. The Dells now has more than 400,000 square feet of meeting space and 8,000 hotel rooms, not including condominiums.

“We give attendees the opportunity to get rid of convention guilt,” said Melanie Platt-Gibson, marketing director, Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau. “Attendees who meet in the Dells are now bringing along their families and extending their stays by a day or two. While the attendee is meeting, his [or her] family can play in the water park, visit a spa and enjoy our attractions. Afterward, families can have time together to create those family vacation memories.”

The Dells’ African-themed Kalahari Resort has the largest number of guest rooms under one roof in the Dells with 752 guest rooms and 100,000 square feet of meeting space. The Kalahari can also claim the area’s largest indoor water park and, as of December 2008, a 110,000-square-foot indoor theme park with a six-story Ferris wheel, a go-cart track, a two-story ropes course, a rock-climbing wall, laser tag, golf simulators and 24 lanes of bowling.

Classrooms in the theme park make it easy to move from meeting to team building.

“Our six corporate team-building trainers were trained by professionals from Penn[sylvania] State [University],” said John Chasten, Kalahari’s director of sales. “They can customize programs for 15 to 100 attendees.”

The resort also has a golf course, where a recently renovated and expanded clubhouse is used not only for golf-related events, but also for poker tournaments, Friday-night fish fries and banquets for up to 250.

With corporate clients in mind, many water park resorts have separated meeting spaces and attendees’ guest rooms from rooms designed for families so attendees can check in, meet and dine without encountering vacationers.

Among them is Wilderness Territory, a high-end, rustic-themed resort with 1,180 guest rooms among 30 different lodging options. Among the resort’s offerings are a spa with its own inn, four indoor and four outdoor water parks, and the new Glacier Canyon Lodge and Conference Center, with 60,000 square feet of meeting space, patios that overlook a wild canyon and a new golf course, ranked one of the top five new courses in the nation by Golf magazine in December 2008.

“We’ve found that Wild Rock Golf Club is an added attendance factor,” said Joe Eck, the resort’s general manager. “A group can meet until noon, then spend the afternoon playing golf for leisure or for team building.”

A new team-building option is a customized zip-line canopy tour that affords 180-foot-high views of the Wisconsin River Dells.

With a total of 600 guest rooms, villas and condominiums and 200,000 square feet of meeting space, Chula Vista Resort is right on that river, which adds a relaxed environment to a meeting, according to Renata Prellwitz, director of sales.

“The resort is set beautifully in nature,” she said. “We’ve added new meeting space that includes a sunny atrium overlooking the river. Attendees can walk to our landing to pick up a boat tour that can include anything from snacks for 120 to a steak-and-lobster event for 300.”

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