22 Questions in 2022: Great Wolf Lodge opened in 2018. What has the impact of all those visitors been?

Published 3:00 pm Sunday, February 27, 2022

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Great Wolf Lodge opened in 2018 in Troup County and has brought in tourism to both the city of LaGrange and its amenities.

The visitors are relatively easy to spot as they are usually wearing wolf ears and wristbands. Some opt to stay at the hotel for the majority of their stay, but many venture out to local restaurants, stores and events in the community.

Mayor Jim Thornton said Great Wolf Lodge has had a tremendous impact on the tourism sector.

“It’s had a tremendous impact on our tourism sector. You can see it when you go by Great Wolf, but you also see people in downtown restaurants who are clearly here because of Great Wolf. You can tell it from their wristbands and their wolf ears,” Thornton said.

Thornton said this is proven by the data, specifically the hotel-motel tax and the statistics on hotel occupancy. He said he does not include 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It translates into increased hotel-motel tax which I think was up 24% from 2019 to 2021. I’m cutting out 2020 because it was such a weird year,” he said. “To boil it down to just actual numbers, if you compare 2019 to 2021, our hotel occupancy in 2019 was 58%. In 2021, it was 65%. We’re seeing tremendous increases in tourism in actual occupancy. If you look at 2019 to 2021, you’re seeing tremendous growth in tourism in this community. That not only supports Great Wolf, it also supports our downtown restaurants [and] our other attractions. It just adds additional life to the local economy.”

Thornton recalled a conversation with local business owner Al Brandon, who was talking about 2021 for his store, Marketplace at Lafayette Square.

“He told me that 2021 was his best year ever, and he’s been in business for a number of years,” he said. “That’s kind of a common theme [we’re] hearing that the retailers [and] the restaurants are seeing increased traffic. They’re seeing more out-of-town guests.”

It’s also a boon for the area overall, as Great Wolf’s presence means more people in Troup County in general. That could catch the eye of other businesses down the road.

“It’s all about the numbers and what they didn’t think about Troup County is that we’re a hub for four or five rural counties,” said Scott Malone, president of the Development Authority of LaGrange. “[Regarding] the retail now, Great Wolf Lodge is a plus for it. When they came in all of a sudden, they have 30,000 plus visitors a month [in] foot traffic.”