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CoCo Key part of new trend in family waterpark resorts

DANVERS – Coco Key sounds like something you’d find on a map of the Caribbean.But it’s a lot closer to home – a 15-minute drive from downtown Lynn at the Sheraton Ferncroft on Route 1 south in Danvers.CoCo Key is the latest in a growing trend of family-oriented waterpark resorts springing up across the country. Construction crews are in the latter phase of piecing together what will be New England’s largest indoor water resort, reflecting a $20-million partnership investment by Wave Development and Sage Hospitality Resources. The opening is slated for late May.”What we’ve done is create a destination,” said Brad McCreedy, a vice president at Sage who led media tour of the waterpark Wednesday. “We really cater to families. We try to give them a resort that is close to home, so that there’s minimal drive time.”The resort, which is actually located in Middleton, connects to the Sheraton Ferncroft hotel where guests can dine and sleep after a day of water-filled fun.The waterpark investment, supplemented by a complete renovation of the Sheraton Ferncroft, will stand as a beacon of economic stability on the North Shore, Middleton Town Manager Ira Shapiro said.Once completed, the park will encompass more than 65,000 square feet, including four water and raft slides totaling 1,252 feet, an adventure river, a dip-in theater with full-size movie screen, a wave beach, and a parrot perch structure with three twirling slides.With help from the project design team, the park will feature a Coral Reef Cavern activity pool, a Palm Grotto whirlpool, snack bars, lounge, interactive arcade, spa, private cabanas, and rooms reserved for birthday parties or group activities.Amy Shimon, Sage director of marketing for its water resorts, said the Danvers park uses 190,000 gallons of water that are pumped through a filtration system every three hours. The water feeds the park’s many attractions, including a river longer than a football field in which guests can float in a rubber tube.”It’s always a balmy 84 degrees inside, no matter whether it’s snowing or freezing outside,” she said, noting that the tubular water slides extend beyond the building walls, but do not get cold. “The water is continuously running. You don’t even know you’re going outside because it’s pitch dark in the tube.”According to Shimon, Sage waterpark guests typically live within a 30-mile radius.”That means instead of having to drive 3.5 hours, you only have to drive a half hour, and that means families get to spend more time together at the resort,” she said. “Your typical families these days are pressed when making vacation plans because of conflicting schedules and activities. They can’t go away for as long if the kids have to go to soccer or ballet.”The waterparks are designed for child play, from toddlers to mid-teens, although the attractions can easily accommodate older youths and adults of all ages, she said, adding, “Families usually come as a whole. There are toddler wading pools and places for the older kids, even a dip-in theater with a full-size movie screen that looks like a big sailboat sail. Mom can sit in the Jacuzzi and still keep an eye on the kids, and dad can go to the lounge.”CoCo Key executives say the resort will employ a staff of about 100, including certified lifeguards who will supervise the water activities in shifts of a dozen or more.The relatively high price of gasoline, and a spate of passenger and luggage snafus at various U.S. airlines, could also play a role in ensuring the close-to-home waterpark business plan proves a success.At some CoCo Key resorts, day passes are for sale ranging from $30-$40, and up to $80 for a private poolside cabana with room enough for 10. Rates including hotel stay vary by package, but at the CoCo Key near Chicago, specials are offered at $139 per night, including four wristbands that allow access to the waterpark.The waterpark resort at 50 Ferncroft Road marked the company’s fourth opening, preceded by Newark, Ohio, A

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