Wisconsin’s Resort Explosion: Sim City?

You know the game; build a city, populate it with people, create businesses, and watch the dollar values flourish as the city redesigns itself day after day. It’s the Sim City game that has captured the attention of millions across the world, and is popular for its unique occurrences, natural disasters, and addictive speedy growth patterns that enable the player to manipulate, control, and create cities and buildings of epic proportions. The reality is, it is a game; a game where you are in control of a variety of resources, people, and general city life.

Flash to Wisconsin today, and capture a glimpse of Wisconsin Dells. Use Google Earth if you like, and even the satellite will show you a somewhat strange conglomeration of yes, waterslides, large resort-style areas with lakes inside woodlands, and even a ferris wheel. The Google Earth snapshot is from years gone by; even then, the colorful assortment that looks similar to toy town is nothing compared to what the area looks like today.


Today, Wisconsin Dells is undergoing a series of mass expansion projects across various resorts in the area. Think Sim City gone wild; every owner of every resort has now opened up expansion projects, some costing close to a quarter of a billion dollars. Add a 650,000 sq. ft. outlet shopping mall, two or three waterparks the size of football fields, more outdoor slides, and new condominium buildings along the Wisconsin River and river’s edge, and you have an entirely new city. All in one year, and all under the direction of a few key resort owners who are creating attractive venues in Wisconsin’s famed tourist destination. The once historic city of Wisconsin Dells is about to have a complete makeover, geared toward an almost overnight catapult of growth to the future.

Not only is the construction a maze in itself this summer, but the incoming recruits to populate and inhabit the area are forthcoming. You can almost feel it in the air, a sort of silent drumbeat of the incoming stampede. Summer time in Wisconsin Dells’ resort areas is notorious for overpopulated streets, large groups of guests, and a variety of travelers from around the country. Students, international groups, and even locals around Wisconsin often go to the Dells simply to work; it is a lucrative choice for many, providing the perks of resort living and a fun way to enjoy a summer. Or beyond, as the current changes may dictate.

Campsites and lodges are booked solid for weeks on end during the summer months, with limited capacity to even move down the famous Wisconsin Dells parkway without crowd control. This year’s expansion will not only increase this town’s capacity, it is going to change the entire city make up in just a few short months.

The resort wars continue between the owners and partners in the area; by the end of this summer and into this fall alone, we are going to witness construction of a 200,000 square foot Sports Complex and Convention Center, the largest in the country, courtesy of Chula Vista Resort. We’ll find two new 18-hole golf courses, plus projections of additional independent courses to open late this year. Add multi-level waterparks, outdoor waterslides, golf courses, lodges, and increased square footage of current slides, and you’ll be nothing but gasping for air!

So why the surge and increase? What was the catalyst that led to this popup of spectacular proportions? Who cast that pick to lead to this ‘gold rush’ for the Midwest? It’s hard to tell. The Wisconsin Dells area pulls in over a million tourists each summer, with a turnover imminently poised on weekends; new faces are the norm around here, except for the long-term company owners, workers, and permanent employees that choose to stay. The new area attractions, particularly the outlet mall, condominiums for sale and rental, waterfront properties, and long-term stay packages will encourage longer stays and possibly increase the mid-week slumps. Vacation rentals and properties will increase ownership and frequent guests; it may not be long before we see ‘regulars’ in establishments, restaurants, and shops!

Overall, the potential revenue from all of the resorts combined will greatly benefit the Wisconsin economy and tourist funds. The expansions that have been funded by investors will soon turn the much-desired profits; local businesses will potentially flourish and burst at the seams with visitors year round, and not just in the summer. New homes and apartment complexes in the area will be filled year round, and not need to resort to deep discounts in the off season.

That is, of course, if the game has been tailored just right.
Natural disasters are few and far between in this Wisconsin area, with only the occasional tornado or Midwestern twister to worry about. And nobody can control those. Right now, the resort gurus have taken the lead on growing faster than their neighbor, and faster than they ever have before. Square foot by square foot, the race is on! Time will tell what the outcome will be, but for now, Wisconsin Dells is in a period of major transition.

The gold rush of the Midwest has just begun; Sim City anyone?

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