Waterbound in Wisconsin
Blue Harbor Resort & Conference Center
By Jenny E. Beeh
It's true Wisconsin is known for its dairy cows rather than its balmy beaches.
But with its impressive expanse of Lake Michigan real estate on its eastern shores, the Badger State's claim to some prime beach property is not really so far-fetched.
One new development is the Blue Harbor Resort & Conference Center in Sheboygan, which just opened for business this summer. This $54 million, 16.75-acre family destination resort with Grand Victorian character and jam-packed with nautical theming offers 183 guest suites (some as huge as 2,000-plus square feet); four restaurants; a spa; a 29,605-square-foot conference center and more than 1,400 feet of that all-important Lake Michigan beachfront property.
Of course, that picturesque shoreline wasn't always so appealing. As an industrial storage site for coal, clay and oil, the parcel, located in the city's South Pier District, had been an eyesore for years. Not exactly the kind of place you would want to stretch out under a beach umbrella and enjoy the view.
Seeing recreation potential, however, in its location, location, location, the developer—The Great Lakes Companies, Inc.—worked closely with the city to remediate the property for the Blue Harbor project, which is also part of a larger revitalization effort for Sheboygan.
Not only has the beachfront location proved ideal for a resort, but so has its greater geographical position: Blue Harbor is just 45 minutes from Milwaukee and an easy two-hour drive from Chicago, perfect for vacationers residing more than a thousand miles from the nearest ocean and for business travelers looking for a unique conference space and nearby golf courses.
Planners conceived the beach resort to be a year-round destination, which might lead to some head scratching if you've ever suffered a Midwestern winter with the winds howling off Lake Michigan. But that leads us to the project's not-so-secret weapon: its four-story, 40,000-square-foot indoor waterpark dubbed Breaker Bay, which features 200,000 gallons of 84-degree heated water, whatever the season.
"This is a venue that everyone can enjoy," says Doug Pagel, director of key account sales for KoalaPlay Group in Englewood, Colo., which designed the waterpark. "You don't need any equipment. It doesn't require skills like golfing. It's good for all ages. It's always the same temperature year-round. You don't get sunburn; you don't get frostbite."
True, but you gotta love water. Breaker Bay boasts seven water slides (two three-story dueling tube slides, two body slides and three kiddie slides), four pools (an activity pool with basketball hoops and floating soft-foam creatures, lazy river, kiddie pool and whirlpool), as well as a towering ship play structure complete with bridges, cargo nets, web crawls and nearly 60 guest-activated water effects that shoot and spray. Did we mention the 48-foot-tall sinking ship that drenches an entire lighthouse with 1,000 gallons of water every three to five minutes?