BY ROBERT TOMKAVAGE
The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses and community organizations to get creative to help people feel safe when visiting their facilities.
Then, state officials shut them down.
From private access to waterparks, movie theaters and recreational opportunities, businesses developed several outlets for families and friends to safely plan small get-togethers before Gov. Tom Wolf and state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced more restrictions for restaurants and entertainment venues until Jan. 4, to help stop the spread of the virus.
For weeks, Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos offered guests exclusive access to the resort’s indoor waterpark after other guests have gone home for the day — but it was pricey.
The Scotrun facility’s “Own the Park” program granted groups exclusive access to the park for 2½ hours after regular operating hours. Packages start at $10,000.
General Manager Bill Colavito said the resort received about four inquiries on the promotion in November and will continue offering it to guests once the facility reopens.
In addition to private access, groups received a refreshment station with soft drinks, water, iced tea and snacks; overnight accommodations in up to 10 suites that can hold five guests each; an in-suite fridge stocked with snacks, bottled water and non-alcoholic beverages; a welcome gift valued at $50 for each suite; and a private breakfast the next morning.
Families must give the resort 14 days’ notice prior to their preferred arrival date by filling out an online form at www.greatwolf.com/poconos/deals/own-the-park.
Colavito believes the program may be popular with people who are looking for a temporary escape from their homes and some quality time with loved ones.
“Everyone has been cooped up and extended families haven’t had an opportunity to see each other,” he said.
Chris Barrett, president of the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau, lauded the resort for its continued ingenuity.
“They are incredibly innovative in everything they do and their customer service is exemplary,” he said. “I think it’s a very smart use of the property.”
Cinemark in Moosic was allowing groups of up to 20 to rent a movie theater for prices ranging from $99 to watch classics to $149 to view new releases, before the business was temporarily shut down again.
A representative in the guest services department confirmed the program will continue when the theaters reopen.
In addition to the comfort and safety of a private theater, Cinemark was including discounts on popcorn, soft drinks and candy in the program.
Katie Kearney of Scranton recently booked a private watch party and was thrilled with the experience.
“The staff was wonderful,” she said. “Everybody was really nice and masked, and the customer service was amazing.”
Katie’s grandmother, Fran Kearney, and two of Katie’s friends joined her to watch “White Christmas.”
“Since March, we really haven’t been able to go out at all,” Katie Kearney said. “Being able to have the experience of going to the movies, but also having the security of knowing it was cleaned and we were the only people in there was really special.”