City considers trolley for Great Wolf guests

LaGRANGE – As construction continues on Great Wolf Lodge, new questions continue to arise from residents wondering how the lodge will affect the city and county where it is located.

One of those questions arose during a recent Town Hall meeting with Mayor Jim Thornton, where the possibility of a trolley system between downtown and the resort in order to encourage resort guests to shop in local stores and support local attractions was discussed.

“When they open, we know that they will be bring 400 to 500 (thousand) visitors to our area every year,” said Thornton “One of our goals is to not just have them stay there at Great Wolf, but try to get them to come to downtown, to the museum, the restaurants, also to Hills & Dales, to the Biblical History Center, some of the other tourism attractions. So, the downtown development authority has been thinking through the logistics of a trolley system that would provide transportation for those guests into downtown.”

A trolley system could potentially pull in more visitors for locations such as Wild Leap Brewing Co. that is scheduled to open this summer and Sweetland Amphitheatre as well, but right now the biggest challenge that the city faces with potentially starting up a trolley system is the unknown factors that will have to be taken into account before a system can be put into place.

“That’s one of those things where the cost of acquiring the trolley is not really the issue,” said Thornton. “The cost is the operational subsidy of having the drivers and all to constantly be working with, and we don’t yet know what the peak demand times would be for Great Wolf guests, and when they would want to come to dinner or… arrive early and check in and want to come downtown.”

Both city officials and Great Wolf representatives have noted the positive effects on local businesses as well as chain restaurants and stores in areas surrounding other Great Wolf Resorts, and city officials have expressed hopes in the past that those benefits will be felt in LaGrange as well. Those effects could certainly be further enhanced by a trolley system, but until the city has more information, all that Thornton could certainly reply was:

“We will definitely be looking into that.”

Reach Alicia B. Hill at alicia.hill@lagrangenews.com or at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.