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$550M Kalahari Resort Takes Shape

Tue October 09, 2018 - West Edition #21
Chuck Harvey – CEG Correspondent


Groundbreaking for the newest Kalahari Resort took place on May 15 in Round Rock, Texas.
(Kalahari Resort photo)
Groundbreaking for the newest Kalahari Resort took place on May 15 in Round Rock, Texas. (Kalahari Resort photo)
Groundbreaking for the newest Kalahari Resort took place on May 15 in Round Rock, Texas.
(Kalahari Resort photo) Kalahari Resorts is building a $550 million, 345.2-acre complex.
(Jacobson Rost photo) The Kalahari Resort in Round Rock is scheduled to open in 2020.
(Jacobson Rost photo) The 200,000-sq.-ft. water park will be unique in that it will be African-themed.
(Jacobson Rost photo) Round Rock, Texas, will be a major attraction starting in 2020 when a new convention center, graced by the world’s largest indoor water park, opens.
(Kalahari Resort photo) The resort will include 1,000 guest rooms; between 150,000 and 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; outdoor pools; five restaurants; a spa; arcade; and retail space.
(Kalahari Resort photo) The convention center will cover 214,000 sq. ft. It will have 16 meeting rooms, a business center and outdoor event space.
(Jacobson Rost photo)

Round Rock, Texas, will be a major attraction starting in 2020 when a new convention center, graced by the world's largest indoor water park, opens.

Kalahari Resorts is building a $550 million, 345.2-acre complex that will include 1,000 guest rooms; between 150,000 and 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; outdoor pools; five restaurants; a spa; arcade; and retail space.

Groundbreaking took place on May 15. The facility is scheduled to open in 2020.

The 200,000-sq.-ft. water park will be unique in that it will be African-themed. Tom Foolery's Adventure Park will be part of the complex. It will feature thrill rides, a ropes course, climbing walls, an indoor zip line bowling, laser tag and mini-golf.

The convention center will cover 214,000 sq. ft. It will have 16 meeting rooms, a business center and outdoor event space.

Round Rock will be the fourth African-themed resort by Kalahari to open in the United States. The others are located in Wisconsin Dells, Wisc., in Sandusky, Ohio, and the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.

“Round Rock is one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation,” said Samantha Flynn, spokeswoman of Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, in a release.

Located 15 mi. north of Austin, it doubled in population from 1990 to 2000.

Kalahari Resorts and Conventions deliver a “world-away” waterpark resort and conference experience, Flynn explained.

The authentically African-themed Kalahari Resorts, privately owned by the Nelson family, include a fully equipped fitness center, on-site restaurants, unique retail shops and a modern conference center. Kalahari Resorts and Conventions frequently receives awards and accolades for its guest and convention services. Recent recognition includes: Condé Nast Traveler's No. 1 World's Coolest Indoor Waterparks and TripAdvisor's 2018 Travelers' Choice Award.

Early Stages

After groundbreaking, construction crews were busy with grading and earthwork and getting utilities set in the ground.

Heavy equipment on site includes scrapers, bull dozers, compactors and dump trucks.

Hensel Phelps of Austin, Texas, is general contractor for the Round Rock project. The company describes itself as a planner, builder and manager.

Hensel Phelps develops, constructs and maintains inspired landmarks designed to turn its clients' aspirations into reality, including the vision of Africa.

On its website, Hensel Phelps states: “Every great landmark starts with a vision. At Hensel Phelps, we bring our clients' vision to life with a comprehensive approach that begins with innovative planning and extends throughout the entire life of the property. Our expert development, construction and facility services teams ensure that every project meets our clients' goals and objectives.”

The Round Rock project requires more than 60 subcontractors. Currently Ranger Excavating of Austin; Chasco Constructors of Round Rock; and Tindall Corp. of Spartanburg, S.C., are on the job.

About 60,000 cu. yds. of concrete will be used over the duration of the project. Workers on the job will vary from 1,300 to 1,500 during peak production.

Kalahari Resorts at Round Rock will provide 3,500 above-ground parking spaces for its guests.

Africa Reflected in Spirit

Africa is reflected in the design of Kalahari — from custom-crafted artwork on the convention center walls, furniture placed in guest rooms, recorded music from the streets of Cape Town echoing in the resorts and original crafts for guest souvenirs.

Designers of Kalahari believe the only way to bring the best of Africa back home is to go out and get it — which means going off the beaten path in the Kalahari and taking chances.

The goal is to connect visitors to Kalahari Resort to the region's African roots.

The Kalahari Resorts and Conventions is named after the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, hence the African theme at all the resorts. The lobbies have artificial fountains, trees and animals that have been imported from local markets and shops in Africa. Special Africa-themed events also are held.

Most of the water slides are named after African landmarks or animals, such as the Rippling Rhino, Wild Wildebeast, Victoria Falls and The Smoke That Thunders. Other services at the Kalahari include restaurants, spas, gift shops and sweet shops.

“Everything in the resort is inspired by Africa,” said Jasmon Harper, public relations coordinator. It all began with the Nelson family's first trip to Africa in the mid-90s.

“Guests will experience the family's passion for Africa through each adventure from attractions to art to various dry play activities,” Harper said.

Built in Popular Location

The resort is being built on Highway 79 near Dell Diamond ballpark and Old Settlers' Park — two well-established venues that together draw more than a million visitors annually. The proximity bodes well for a successful, tourism-oriented development.

Kalahari Resorts is a new industry for Round Rock that will provide substantial property tax revenues and diversify available employment opportunities.

Kalahari will own and operate the resort and indoor-outdoor water park. The city will own the convention center for a period of time to take advantage of unique financing options, but Kalahari will operate it.

A family-owned business, Kalahari Resorts provides African-themed “world-away” water park resort. The resort is not an animal park and Kalahari Resorts has no current plans to feature live animals at Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in Round Rock.

Sensitive to Neighbors

Adjacent neighbors will be able to see some of the facilities on the site and may be able to hear park activities. Kalahari Resorts plans to address sight and sound concerns to the extent possible during the multi-stage zoning change approval process.

“We are sensitive to being a good neighbor,” Harper said. Our landscaping designer is taking site and sound into consideration on that side of the resort.”

Economic Benefits

At its peak, Kalahari Resorts Round Rock expects to attract up to 1 million visitors annually. Many visitors will come for multi-day conventions and meetings and bring their spouses and families.

Kalahari Resorts works with the local tourism industry in each community it operates in to enhance marketing and promote packages for tours of the region's attractions.

Also, the resort plans to provide 700 estimated jobs and hopes to increase tourism and revenue by propelling spending in the local community.

CEG