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Today's the day for Gurnee water park splash
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 2/29/2008 12:06 AM

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Gurnee's latest tourist attraction debuting today will feature $136 million worth of hotel suites, water, restaurants and shtick.

KeyLime Cove Water Resort joins a roster that includes Six Flags Great America and Gurnee Mills in a village drawing an estimated 26 million visitors annually.

Nationally known barbecue entrepreneur David Anderson and a cadre of hospitality partners are behind KeyLime Cove, which opens at noon today. Anderson, who launched the Famous Dave's chain, said the resort will draw visitors primarily from a 75-mile radius seeking a quick getaway.

Anderson said the hassles of airline travel, high gasoline prices and even a down economy will work in KeyLime Cove's favor as a local family vacation destination northeast of Grand Avenue and the Tri-State Tollway.

"Parents work hard. They need an escape," said Anderson, sitting on a deck at the Crazy Toucan Margarita Grille during a preview event Thursday.

The centerpiece of KeyLime Cove is a 65,000-square-foot water park with corkscrew slides and a 10-foot-tall pineapple splash bucket, which takes the complex's tropical shtick to an extreme. Humidity results from the pool water blending with a constant air temperature in the 80s.

KeyLime Cove has 414 suites, restaurants, shops, a spa and an 8,000-square-foot arcade. While the water park is open only to guests, other amenities are available to the public.

William Morrissey, whose Minnesota-based hospitality company is part of KeyLime Cove, said guests won't need to leave the $136 million property. He compared it to being on a land-based cruise.

"This is the beginning of a whole new segment of the hospitality industry," Morrissey said.

Meanwhile, Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said village officials have had meetings with tollway representatives because of concerns about a 45-mile construction zone running from O'Hare International Airport to the Wisconsin state line.

Kovarik said plans call for signs promoting alternate routes to Gurnee on the tollway.

Anderson was unperturbed about the tollway work, saying he expects most of KeyLime's business won't occur in morning or afternoon rush hours.