By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Oct 22, 2004 at 5:09 AM

{image1} The Wisconsin Dells waterparks are getting bigger. Three parks -- Big Chief's Mt. Olympus Theme Park, Treasure Island Waterpark Resort and Family Land Waterpark -- announced Thursday that they will merge into the Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park as part of an $80 million expansion plan.

The new "mega park" will become the largest property in the Wisconsin Dells area and will offer both indoor and outdoor water activities.

Mt. Olympus will also be the first such water and theme park in the area to offer lodging that will include admission to all of the park's amenities in the price of an overnight stay.

"Wisconsin Dells is once again leading the way in the family tourism industry," said Nick Laskaris, co-owner of the new Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park and owner of Big Chief's Karts and Coasters. "Big Chief was the first in the world to have elevated go-kart tracks. Family Land had the first wave pool in the Midwest and the first fiberglass waterslides in Wisconsin Dells. Treasure Island was one of the leaders in the development of indoor waterpark resorts, and now through this merger, we are setting the trend of combination mega parks."

The two ownership groups' recent joint purchase of the 29-year-old Playday Motel paved the way for the blockbuster deal. All four properties are located along prime Wisconsin Dells Parkway frontage real estate. The purchase price of the Playday Motel was not disclosed.

"Merging our neighboring properties by purchasing this older-style motel between us was a natural progression," said Jim Mattei, co-owner of the new Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park, and owner of the Family Land and Treasure Island properties. "This merger could easily spur a wave of consolidations of smaller, older properties in Wisconsin Dells, similar to what has occurred in Las Vegas."

The merged entities create a single destination property spanning 156 acres and stretching a continuous length equal to more than 15 football fields along the Wisconsin Dells Parkway. For comparison, the same stretch of land on the opposite side of the road accommodates 14 businesses including five hotels, five attractions, a campground, gas station, restaurant and one retail outlet.

Currently, about 90 acres of the Mt. Olympus land are developed and feature 29 waterslides, two floating rivers, a wave pool, three shallow water play areas, nine multi-level go-kart tracks, five roller coasters, seven kiddie rides, bumper boats, mini-golf, batting cages and arcades. The new mega park also includes the 55,000 square-foot Bay of Dreams indoor waterpark and two lodging facilities offering 387 rooms.

The new mega park will continue the classic Greek mythology theme started by the Laskaris family with their go-kart and roller coaster park. Architectural features and signage will include Greek column facades along the parkway frontage, with similar motifs throughout the park.

Development plans include the opening of four new amusement attractions at Mt. Olympus mega park in May 2005. The Playday Motel will be torn down to make way for two new outdoor water rides visible from the parkway. A new go-kart track is also in the planning stages.

A new extreme wooden roller coaster called Hades is already under construction. Hades will climb 136 feet, then drop 154 feet into the world's longest underground tunnel for a roller coaster ride. Boasting a 65-degree slope, Hades will feature the steepest drop for any hybrid wooden roller coaster in the country. It will carry passengers up at 65 miles per hour and plunge below the earth twice through tunnels traveling under the Mt. Olympus parking lot. Hades will also feature a 90-degree banked turn inside the tunnel as the coaster twists and turns in complete darkness.

"We also have another 66 acres available for future development," said Monte Mattei, co-owner of the new park and owner of the Family Land and Treasure Island properties. "We are creating a premier destination property and definitely have room to grow."

"This new development is indicative of the great entrepreneurial spirit that has earned Wisconsin Dells recognition as Waterpark Capital of the World," said Romy Snyder, executive director of Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau. "Wisconsin Dells continues to set the gold-standard for waterpark development as well as other kinds of heart-pounding fun."

The Mt. Olympus merger also involves two other lodging properties: Treasure Island Waterpark Resort, with 331 rooms and suites, and Pleasant View Motel, a budget motel featuring 56 rooms, which is owned and operated by Treasure Island. Guests of both hotels will receive admission to the new water and theme park included in the price of their room.

For non-overnight guests, an all-day pass to the new mega park will be priced at $32 per person. A four-hour water and ride pass will be available for $29, and single ride tickets will be $4. The park will also offer a $5 general admission.