Courtesy photo

Waterpark pioneer Andrew John “Turk” Waterman passed away June 29, 2017. He was 77.

Waterman founded two of the industry’s most recognized brands: Great Wolf Lodge and Noah’s Ark Waterpark. In doing so, he played a key role in transforming the Wisconsin Dells into the Waterpark Capital of the World.

“As a pioneer in the industry, Great Wolf Lodge recognizes the early role Mr. Waterman played in forming what is now North America's largest family of indoor waterpark resorts,” the company stated. “We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the entire Waterman family.”

Waterman began his career in the amusement industry when he started a company with his brother, Jack, creating shooting galleries. Called Midwest Amusements, it became one of the largest of its kind.

The brothers' foray into waterparks began with Noah’s Ark in 1979. The project signaled a turning point for the then small community of Wisconsin Dells. Today, Noah’s Ark, now owned by Palace Entertainment, ranks as the country’s largest waterpark. And its headquarter city now has the highest concentration of waterparks in the world.

In 1997, the Watermans founded the Great Wolf Lodge, which is credited for raising the bar of indoor waterparks and turning the Dells, as it’s called, into a year-round destination.

Turk, as he was also called, was a founding member of the World Waterpark Association. In 2000, the WWA inducted him into its Hall of Fame.

In 2013, the Wisconsin Dells Visitors and Convention Bureau honored him with a lifetime achievement award.

Waterman is survived by his wife Judy, four children and 10 grandchildren.