Given the family's last name, it's fitting that Waterman is a household name in a city known for its water parks.

In fact, the Waterman family's first big splash in the tourist town was the development of Noah's Ark Water Park , a Wisconsin Dells institution that still bills itself as America's Largest Water Park.

Despite what would seem to be the perfect last name, the family has chosen its own moniker only for a lumber yard business and the first family business - the Waterman Hotel - established in the late 1800s by Andrew Waterman. He's the great grandfather of Andrew Waterman IV, who is the current patriarch of the family and goes by the nickname, Turk.

The hotel - where the founder's son, Andrew Waterman II, also worked - no longer exists and the family has gone on to start up many other businesses in the hospitality and entertainment industries.

Turk and his wife, Judy Waterman, also helped develop the World Waterpark Association.

"Dells kids, in general, grow up to be entrepreneurs," said Turk Waterman, who as a boy helped his father, Andrew "Poppy" Waterman, who brought bingo, slots and juke boxes to the Dells area.

The family does have a ritual for choosing the names of its growing list of businesses. Some 200 to 300 names are compiled and the list is left on a desk for family members to mull over. This unscientific process seems to narrow down the list and then one name usually pops out.

"Basically, it's kind of the one that sticks out to everybody," said Megan Waterman, Turk Waterman's daughter. "It just kind of comes to us."

The latest business, Buffalo Phil's Grille , is named after Megan Waterman's boyfriend, Phil Schmitz, who is a partner in the business along with his brother, Mark. The other partners are the children of Turk and Judy Waterman - Andy (Andrew Turk IV), 35, Cory, 32, Megan, 27 and Aaron, 25.

It's the first business where the Waterman children have ownership but not their parents. It opened in February 2007.

That's not to say it still hasn't been a family affair for this hands on family. Judy Waterman had a large hand in the design of Buffalo Phil's, which is full of period detail. She spent two years collecting Western art for the three-story, 35,000-square-foot restaurant, which has a lower banquet level adorned with framed family photos.

For the lobby she commissioned a painting of a rodeo scene where each person was painted to look like a family member or worker who built the restaurant.

Turk Waterman created the spindles used in railings throughout the restaurant and the adjoining Knuckleheads Bowling and Family Entertainment Center , which opened a couple of weeks earlier.


Much of the wood for the restaurant was harvested from his late grandfather's nearby land. Andy Waterman and his company, Waterman Log Crafters , did the rest of the woodwork found in the restaurant except for the large structural pieces.

Turk and Judy Waterman's first business together was a bar in the Dells called Turk's Leper Colony.

"We needed a name people would remember," Turk Waterman said.

The couple owned the bar for 41/2 years and in the meantime, Turk Waterman and his brother, Jack, started working together as game concessionaires. That led to the creation of video arcades and electronic shooting galleries and construction projects in conjunction with these businesses.

Noah's Ark opened in 1979 and the Watermans owned it until 1994.


The family built Great Wolf Lodge , which opened as Black Wolf Lodge - the first indoor water park in the Dells. The Watermans have since sold Great Wolf Lodge and the concept, which has led to the opening of eight more and one under construction through a license agreement.

In 2002, the Watermans built Moosejaw Pizza and Brewing Co.

with the Schmitz brothers. Jack Waterman also is a partner.

The next big venture was the development of the former Wisconsin Dells Greyhound Trackproperty next to the Great Wolf Lodge. It now holds Knuckleheads, Buffalo Phil's Grille and the Tanger Outlet Mall , which is a partnership between Turk, Jack and Andy Waterman.

In between these ventures, the family has developed a number of other businesses, which include Copa Cabana Resort Hoteland Cove of Lake Geneva condominiums.


Each time a business is opened, family members fill roles where they fit the best.

For example, Megan Waterman, who has a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Cornell University , is general manager of Knuckleheads.

Aaron Waterman will take his place in the family businesses after he graduates this spring from UW-Stoutwith a business degree.

Despite what would seem like a full plate, brothers Cory and Andy Waterman have other businesses as well. Cory Waterman is manager of the Wisconsin Dells branch of the Fish and Schulkampinsurance agency. Andy Waterman has his wood working business and together they own FinishLine Studios , which specializes in Web site development, Web hosting and creating logos.

These other businesses come into play in the family's hospitality businesses. For example, Cory Waterman handles insurance and information technology for the various businesses and their elaborate Web sites are developed through FinishLine Studios. Not only is it handy, but it also gives the family some separation.

"We don't want to have too many hands in the pot," Cory Waterman said.

Cory's wife, Holly Waterman, who graduated from Regis Universityin Denver, is controller for the family businesses.

The younger Watermans were all seven or eight years old when they started helping at the family businesses, doing tasks like rolling quarters, selling concessions and wrapping hot dogs.

Between school, athletics and the family businesses, the kids were busy. It's not a surprise that the kids don't remember much shop talk between their parents after work.

"We were never home," Cory Waterman said.

As the kids got older, they went on to other jobs. For example, Megan Waterman was one of the first lifeguards at Great Wolf. Andy Waterman eventually became manager at Great Wolf after graduating from Colorado State in hotel and restaurant management. Cory Waterman, who graduated in business from Regis,bartended at Houlihan'srestaurant, which has since been sold, and managed Timber Falls Adventure Park , a business owned by Turk Waterman and a friend.


When there is an argument, the first reaction may be to discuss the issue with Judy Waterman.

"Each one of them comes to me separately," said Judy Waterman, 59.

They also talk things out and time helps smooth over the issue.

"Turk's word is usually the final say and nobody says anything after that," Megan Waterman said.

The Watermans have drawn up an estate plan, which divides the property and the siblings will have an equal opportunity to be involved in the businesses. All the family members have a role on the board.

Cory Waterman has three children and Andy Waterman has two, including one named Andrew VI, but they haven't been put to work yet, given they are all under the age of 5.

At 68, Turk Waterman said he is "transitioning" as he tries to become less involved in the businesses. So far it hasn't been working very well.

"It would probably be an end to me if I stopped working," he said.