Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee welcomed guests Thursday for the first time since shutting down in accordance with state COVID-19 protocols in November.
Nadine Miracle, the general manager of the Gurnee location, said there was palpable joy among the staff -- which at Great Wolf is called "the pack" -- when the first family walked through the doors to the Great Hall.
"We had such anticipation for that moment," Miracle said Friday. "Our pack was so excited, and everyone had put in so much effort and energy into reopening."
Miracle said it took about 10 days of work to get the lodge ready for guests. The new cleaning and safety measures include continual sanitization of frequently touched surfaces with hospital-grade disinfectants, guest room sanitization before every check-in, and mask wearing for guests ages 2 and older everywhere except in the pools.
One of the most important safety measures is the lower capacity. Miracle said about 40% of the resort's 414 rooms are in use.
"We are strategically limiting capacity," Miracle said. "As we reopen, we want to feel comfortable and confident with the number of guests we have."
Miracle said the lodge is sold out this weekend and next, but rooms are available midweek. She said the lower capacity allows all of the attractions, including the 86,000-square-foot indoor water park, to remain open with some modifications.
"The capacity limits allow families to have space," Miracle said. "Another great benefit to there being so many activities is that not everyone goes to the water park at the same time."
The lodge also features an arcade, bowling lanes, a high ropes course, climbing walls, nine holes of mini-golf, staff-led activities for children, and more.
The lodge, at 1700 Nations Drive, first shut down because of the pandemic on March 15. In late April, the lodge was used by the nearby Naval Station Great Lakes to quarantine recruits before they headed to base. Great Wolf reopened to guests on Aug. 24 before shutting down again on Nov. 20.
"It's been a journey for our pack, and we're excited to be back," Miracle said.