I-TEAM Investigates Complaints At Local Water Park Hotel

By Liz Collin, WCCO-TV

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (WCCO) — A Twin Cities suburb could force a well-known water park hotel to close if it doesn’t clean up its act.

Last week, the I-TEAM went undercover and discovered a long list of problems inside the Ramada Grand Rios in Brooklyn Park.

Nearly half of its rooms are already off limits but it’s what you can’t see that could cost the hotel and water park guests hundreds of dollars.

Like any new couple, Erin Runk and Michelle Evens wanted to make their first Valentine’s Day count. They decided a group date at Grand Rios would also work as a winter weekend getaway.

“We had booked it probably a good month or so in advance. So, we were definitely looking to not only going to the water park but be able to have a fun weekend hanging out with our friends,” Evens said.

But they say their “staycation” didn’t live up to those expectations.

“I was the one who suggested we just go home a few times,” Evens added.

The I-TEAM rented a room to see the conditions first-hand. As soon as they checked in, they could see a roofing crew had taken over the lobby. They observed bags covering long stretches of the ceiling, buckets collecting water in some hallways and door after door was marked with black tape and yellow tags from the health department.

In all, 120 rooms, which is more than half of the hotel’s rooms, were uninhabitable.

“I get back to the room and I’m like, ‘I’m going to start taking some pictures of this stuff. This needs to be told,'” said Runk.

Runk also learned first-hand about the hotel’s history of rooms being burglarized.

“That’s when I went to go grab my phone and it wasn’t where I had left it,” Runk remembered.

The I-TEAM found police were called 281 times to Grand Rios in the last two years. Of those calls, 58 calls were for room thefts and 15 calls were for stuff missing from cars in the parking lot.

In Runk’s case, police said they found someone used a front desk master key to access his room while he was at the water park.

The I-TEAM found a similar story in most of the other break-ins where employees were suspected of swiping money, cell phones, laptops and cameras.

Roy Fernandez is the general manager at Grand Rios now. He’s only held the position for two months. When he started, he said he took master key access away from most employees.

The I-TEAM asked Fernandez if employees are stealing from rooms.

“It’s really hard to judge anybody but I don’t think so,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez said part of the theft problem could be guests leaving their rooms unlocked. The hotel will add more cameras next month.

It will be months until the roof repairs are complete. Fernandez said this winter’s heavy snow and the past owner’s lack of action made water damage worse. He insists guests know what they’re getting into because there are signs on entry doors and room rates are discounted.

Fernandez also said construction zones are off limits, even though the I-TEAM walked right in.

The city of Brooklyn Park has been keeping a close eye on Grand Rios after fielding complaints for months. In November, the city closed one of the water park’s slides after 17-year-old Youtee Pour was pulled from a pool and died at the hospital. An investigation found no one was working at the top of the slide, which is required by law.

Bob Schreier directs Brooklyn Park’s Community Development Department. While the lifeguard situation has been resolved, he said if other areas aren’t fixed, the city will force the hotel to shut down.

“I’ve been here seven years and we’ve never worked so hard on a business as this one,” said Schreier. “This is when it’s taking an inordinate amount of time.”

The city meets with hotel management every couple of weeks and will continue doing so.

As for Runk, he complained to Ramada’s corporate office asking for $500 to cover the cost of his iPhone.

“As of today, I have not received any other response of any kind,” Runk said.

After learning he’s not alone, Runk doesn’t think he’ll ever see that money or his phone again.

More from Liz Collin
  • appaled at hotel service

    Has anyone checked into the other properties that the owner runs?

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  • Theresa Hofmann

    that is effed up! thanks for the heads up! note to self: never go to grand rios!

  • travis

    i hope you are no older than 17. Sadly, I realize thats probably not true.

    • Brewster


  • Chris

    captainobviously a bigot…Don’t make this about race. I live in Edina, in a predominantly white neighborhood, in one of the whitest suburbs in the Twin Cities. I’ve had both my car and my wife’s car vandalized, my car stereo stolen, and loose change taken out of hers -then having to replace our both car windows in the process. I mistakenly left the faceplate on my stereo only one night and came out the next day and it was gone. Meaning they had to be watching my car.
    I don’t know where you live, but don’t judge a city by it’s color, but its character.
    (And it’s “you’re”, not “your” Sherlock). Chris in Edina

    • GW

      Chris: Living in Edina? You are a Target ! In case you have not done the research, the inner cities are growing empty, and as the METROPOLITAN
      social engineering Council mandates low cost housing throughout the twin cities. What does this mean? that crime is being exported from the inner cities to the Suburbs…….
      No, I would never judge the North side Mpls as being crime ridden….oh no,
      How about East LA? How about Newak NJ? how about Miami ? Houston?
      What isolated, weird world do you live in ???

    • captainobvious

      What does you living in Edina have to do with this? You think thieves stay in their zipcode, theres nothing to steal in brooklyn dark so they go there, my sisters used to live in brooklyn center 20 years ago and me as a 10 year old would bike around alone, now i wouldnt walk around with less than 3 buddies and 2 pistols, its a dump, try visiting it b4 you think you know anything

    • Jen


    • Paul

      Prove it, Mike.

    • silly

      Chris, it must have been all those poor white kids vandalizing your car.

  • Kwai Chang Caine

    colloquially put but essentially correct!

  • Victim Du Jour

    I have never had a reason to stay at a hotel in Brooklyn Park.

    Big deal!

  • David

    Brewster: Are you the theif?

  • Mike

    What REALLY goes on in Brool;yn Park WCCO?

    • Mike

      Why were noise complaints the headline paragraph, and then you sneakily slipped in the thiefery and robbery outside. WHO ARE THEY? WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?

  • Nancy Aleshire

    I live in Brooklyn Park and businesses are leaving right and left (around the Zane/Brooklyn Blvd area) where I live. When my kids went to Park Center during the 2000’s, it was a zoo. Administrators wouldn’t even enforce their own disciplinary policies. We do have large numbers of decent, hardworking Liberian families who are deeply concerned by the crime issue. Brooklyn Park desperately needs more jobs, not un-affordable housing. The problems at Grand Rios do not surprise me–good story!!!

    • ohoh

      If only we would give people more welfare we wouldn’t have any problems in Brooklyn Park.

  • Thomas the Train

    No way I would ever go to Grand Rios. Have you seen where its located. Just north of Minneapolis. Where do you think all the thug go to have fun.

  • GW

    Ah, Captain Obvious:
    I lived on the North Side of Mpls for Seven years. Had a guy gunned down on the corner of my property: He was walking his dog at 10:30 PM> He was gunned down by an 11 year old with a 9mm !
    I have lived it, I have seen it. What’s your fricking point dude?
    Ya, like I said – Edina is a target for thieves who have their cheap-ass section 8 apartment in St. Louis Park (which is NOT minneapolis…..hmmm…)
    I guess you really do take everything at the most fundamental Obvious level….l dah…..???

  • less violence

    You all have very valid points and finger pointing is not one of the good ones. We now have the attenion of the media and thousands of readers. Don’t stop here, keep after the attention with the news, the newspaper. Get it out there anyway you can, without violence, name calling and finger pointing. You all obviously care about were you live, now keep that feeling going. No, I do not know what it intails, to do such a task, but I am more then positive your neighbor probably has a good idea. Prayers of safety and right thinking to you.

  • JustSayin

    Well, helllooo look at where it it’s located!

  • The Trend

    This is the culture you get when we have the government paying idiots to have babies

    • buzzword

      So I can assume you’re pro choice then? Or at least a proponent of castration?

  • dhsyjxd

    why the hell didnt the guy missing his i phone use the gps tracking right after it was stolen prolly was in the managers poket use technology to ur advantage

  • rach

    lol I just was there a month ago, it was soo gross, smelled of mold everywhere, and not one ice machine worked, buckets of water all over, no ceiling tiles. i was not happy and will never go there again. thank you wcco for looking into this!

    • Naomi

      IKR! I was there in Sept… Sept 4 to be exact and it was the same. The room smelled moldy, no ice, had to go to the store and get ice, rude staff, just ridiculous.

  • Sue

    It’s sad that the owners have let that place go to hell. It used to be a very nice water park, and I used to go a lot. I loved it there. The hurricane plunge is the best waterslide i’ve ever been on. But, last time I was there, there were no lifeguards at the top of the platform where all the slides start. Kids were going down head first, and going down the tube slide with no tubes. They were sending down 3 or 4 tubes at a time holding on to each other. I remember thinking that this was a lawsuit waiting to happen. Then I heard about the squaller the hotel was in and the mold and water damage. I finally stopped going when I heard the water was contaminated in the park and not clean or properly sanitized. I didn’t want to get sick. I hope some new owners take over and keep the place up. Water park of america is beautiful but just not as fun…..

  • Why am I itching

    It’s been a dump for years.

  • Niknak

    I went there last month and had a blast. The staff was friendly, the rooms were fine, the ice machine worked where we were, the water park was very fun, there were lifeguards everywhere, nothing was stolen and *gasp* we were alive and well when we woke up. They are obviously having a problem w/ water leaking and it is also obvious that they are working to remedy this – they are definitely not alone w/ water issues this year. And if you walk into a work zone area after being instructed not to then that is your fault. My goodness people get off your pedestals, come back down to reality and realize that money isn’t flowing around as freely as it once was and things are tough. Take advantage of the discounts and use common sense.

    • GM

      Do you work at the hotel or were you high?

      You must be kidding! I was there last month the ice machine must have only worked on your side of the building and building was bad. I do not have a pedestal and any idiot could see how bad it was…

    • Sanjay

      Are u related to management or the owner? The place is an absolute dump. I wouldn’t go there if it was free.

      • niknak

        Yep – we had ice. I did notice the safe didn’t work but we didn’t call and ask about it. So I can’t complain about that. They were forthcoming about water damage. The water park was great and the room was fine. It certainly wasn’t luxurious. The halls on one side of the building were stinky but seriously signs posted EVERYWHERE. There is not much that can be done about that until the snow melted. I just feel like they were making the best of it. So we did too.
        I read reviews before I went and had really low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised. I will say that the food sucked. We strictly went to swim and play at the water park so I didn’t spend much time looking around or hanging out in the room.

  • JustSayin

    Seriously, look at the location. Are any of you surprised???? Not about the mold issue, but the thefts…Come ON NOW!!!

    • Seriously

      The thefts maybe due to safes notes working! I think just there for looks.

      • JustSayin

        Or due to the neighborhood….

  • Gina

    I have stayed at the Grand Rio’s just last month 03/2011. Very very bad!! The 1st room we had the ceiling was leaking. The staff stated they would give the room as half price never noted the system so when we checked out the staff stated I cannot give the room for half it’s not noted. The front desk was always packed with customers complaining about their rooms leaking and the smell was terrible. Yes there are signs on the doors stating we are under construction entering the building, but when scheduling your room the staff does not tell you this information and the managers run to hide when confronted about the issues. I did call the 800 # on our bill with my complaint about the rooms and never heard back. The discount is a whole $15 dollars we paid over $300 for two rooms. I would not pay a whole $15 dollars to stay again and would have left, but we had children that were very excited about the water park. “Also don’t eat at the restaurant the food was bad and we had to send it back numerous times for under cooked meat.” Chicken and pork not good!!

  • David

    Can’t Everyone see, I looked at several travel site reviews for this hotel and the problems that plague it have been going on for over a year. Occasionally Management replies to a bad review with a FORM response. Watching the broadcast I noticed that the manager could not even look the reporter or the camera in the eye. He could not answer questions and when he did I feel he was lying. I personally and going to contact Ramada Corporate and aide in getting this pace shut down.

  • HD

    Why can’t the police do a sting and set up a hidden camera to catch the thiefs? If they’ve been called out over 200 times, wouldn’t it be obvious that there’s something going on that needs to be looked into? I hope the owner reads this article and takes a look and things and maybe makes some decisions to get this train wreck back on track.

  • Sara

    Whatever you do – don’t sit on the bedspread!

  • Hugh

    Voted #1 in Family Entertainment, the Grand Rios Indoor Water Park – voted number 1 by whom – the thieves!

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