Native American tribes have become well known in recent years for building casinos, but the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation in Southwest Washington are investing in a year-round indoor water park that will become a four-season destination for travelers on Interstate 5 between Olympia and Centralia.
In addition to the 56,000-square-foot water park, Great Wolf Lodge includes a 32,000-square-foot conference center and a 394-unit hotel. It is a joint project developed by the tribe and the Great Wolf Co. of Madison, Wis. Great Wolf claims to be the largest owner and operator of drive-to family resorts and indoor waterparks in the nation.
"This project has been years in the planning stage because the tribe wanted to diversify and build multipurpose facilities rather than another casino," said tribal construction manager Jay May.
The four-story water park includes pools, water sports and a "Howling Tornado," which will carry bathers down a long slide that starts atop a 65-foot tower positioned partly outside the building.
The water park and conference center also have the environmental benefit of being framed with long-span glued laminated timber beams, which are a renewable material from forests where millions of trees are planted annually.
Architect George Stromquist said the glulam roof timbers were specified to avoid possible corrosion that might affect steel framing in a high-moisture, chlorine-intense environment.
"The strength of the exposed 79-foot glulam roof beams also helps reduce the number of support columns and provides a rustic, warm aesthetic atmosphere inside the water park," he noted.
The conference center also features the ambiance of glulam timbers with 8-3/4-inch-by-18-inch glulams as the roof framing. Solid sawn wood decking is the finish roof and ceiling for both structures.
David Pierson, who supervised the structural engineering on the project, said only five main columns were needed on the interior of the park due to the long span strength of the glulam timbers.
"After reviewing different roof framing options, it became apparent that the glulam beams with four-by-six T&G decking was the best system for the park," Pierson said. "The building is rectangular 250 feet by 200 feet and is framed so the ridge, which slopes up from a 42-foot height at one corner to 85 feet at the opposite corner, runs along the diagonal. This creates framing that slopes at about 13 percent (8 degrees) and is skewed at about 51 degrees when it hits the side walls. In the language of pilots, each beam has pitch, yaw and roll.
"The main glulams are spaced 15 feet to 18 feet on center and span 79 feet between the eight main trusses that are parallel to the ridge. As the framing was laid out, the connections were greatly simplified by using glulams which could be cut to length with the proper slope at the ends. Not only do these timbers provide flexural strength for the roof snow loads, they also have the required strength to resist significant wind loads at the tops of the 85-foot-high wind columns."
The new facilities are attracting major attention as new landmarks between old Highway 99 and Interstate 5. The multi-colored water slides will be visible to motorists. The entire project covers 39 acres and will cost about $150 million. It will be the largest indoor water park in the state.
The water park will be open only to customers of the hotel, which will reduce long lines for rides and make the park more attractive to its customers, according to the tribe. The hotel rooms will cost about $215 per night.
The American Institute of Timber Construction estimates that there are about 40 indoor water parks under construction across the United States. The parks, particularly those in Northern states, help create a four-season recreation environment because they continue to be popular long after the summer ends.
Many of the parks include the excitement of waterfalls, lazy rivers, spas, family raft rides, waterslides, and sheet waves that allow guests to surf and bodyboard.
Designers note that the furring, sheathing and finishing often required with steel framing can be eliminated with glulam construction. This means faster construction with wood at competitive costs. And unlike steel, concrete or other materials that deplete natural resources, wood is a renewable resource.
Timber-framed interiors also are gaining in popularity because when glulam materials arrive at the job site prefinished, the delivered product is the finished product. Other types of framing members arrive on-site in raw form and require additional cladding to create the final product.
Architects and designers report a growing trend toward timber framing for many types of commercial and residential buildings. In contrast to steel, glulam beams and trusses are usually available on short notice. Timber is often specified because it avoids the extra cost of fireproofing steel trusses.
For more information on designing with laminated timbers, contact: American Institute of Timber Construction, 7012 S. Revere Parkway, No.140, Centennial, CO 80112; phone (303) 792-9559; www.aitc-glulam.org.