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Businesses around Noah’s Ark brace after waterpark shuts down

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LAKE DELTON (WKOW) -- At Noah's Ark Waterpark Thursday, the "Today's Hours" sign is conspicuously blank. The digital board beneath the sign heralding the "World's Largest Waterpark" read "Closed for the season!" Across the street, Bill Troxel said he's not sure how the closure will affect business, Elusive Escape Rooms.

"Maybe less traffic to the Dells, which will affect our business a bit," Troxel reasoned. "By them not being open, people that still come to the Dells, they're looking for other activities, things to do, so we may do fine because people that still come are looking for something to do.

While Troxel expressed a cautiously optimistic tone, he also noted business for the year has been down about 40 percent from last summer. The escape room attraction reopened on May 21, altering policy to only allow single groups, where everyone is from the same party, in a room at once.

That means more groups of two or four instead of groups of ten or more. When charging per ticket, the cost adds up. Still, Troxel said he and his son, who co-owns the business, believed that was the only way to reopen safely.

"We would never want to put two rooms of strangers together so we're entirely good," Troxel said. "We're ready for that."

Jodie Molitor, the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for Sauk County Public Health, said Thursday having fewer out-of-state visitors is something health officials would welcome.

"From a public health aspect, that's a good thing for us," Molitor said. "Less people, less travelers from out and about bringing their germs in."

Molitor noted the Noah's Ark closure would also affect surrounding restaurants, stores, and attractions. She encouraged people to patronize those businesses but to continue doing so responsibly.

"Keep supporting your small businesses but look at different ways you can do it," she said. "Carry out your meals instead of going in to frequent."

The decision from Noah's Ark, which it announced Wednesday, came after the park first posted on Saturday it would temporarily close after two workers tested positive for COVID-19.

A spokesman for the waterpark said no one from Noah's Ark would be available for an interview Thursday.

Troxel said he's hopeful any business losses will be offset by reduced overhead as he wasn't able to bring in a dozen seasonal workers from Jamaica, something he normally does but couldn't because of the Trump administration's new restrictions on the student visa program.

For now, he said he's hoping by taking extra precautions and following rules, his business will escape 2020 still healthy.

"We'll just put the box out and give them masks and they put them on," Troxel said. "Reluctantly, some of them, but they wear them and we're all in this together."

A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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