Kalahari Project

Kalahari puts on a Texas-sized groundbreaking

We’ve been to dozens of groundbreakings in Round Rock over the years, but none like the one for Kalahari Resorts last week. The big tents, the amazing food, the large video backdrop on the stage and the laid-back delivery of owner Todd Nelson showcased Kalahari’s one-of-a-kind hospitality expertise.

The size, the scale and the nature of business were on display for the 250 or so invited guests who watched the ceremonial dirt turning on the $550-million, 1.4-million-square-foot  project. We’re projecting Kalahari will generate a net $4.7 million in new tax revenue to the City and create at least 700 new jobs.

The groundbreaking highlighted the fact we’ve never had a business like this in Round Rock before. Sure, we’ve got a couple dozen terrific hotels and motels, but not a full-blown resort and convention center that will feature the world’s largest indoor water park.

Let that sink in. There will be no indoor water park on the planet larger than the one now under construction in Round Rock. Nelson said it will be the sixth time Kalahari has built the world’s largest indoor water park.

Nelson also showed images from Kalahari’s other convention centers. He also announced that as part of the groundbreaking, Kalahari was signing three contracts for the 200,000-square-foot Round Rock convention center, one of which booked 14,000 room nights over six years.

So we’re officially in the convention business, in a big way. The convention center will greatly expand our tourism efforts, beyond the already successful Sports Capital of Texas program.

And then there’s the fun stuff. Nelson described and showed images of what’s in store at Tom Foolery’s – an 80,000-square-foot indoor adventure park that will include thrill rides, ropes course, climbing walls, an indoor zip line, bowling, laser tag and mini golf.

Kalahari provides fun for the entire family, from seniors to toddlers, Nelson said. The family experience is a big element of what they’re selling, and that’s how their other resorts each draw an estimated 1 million visitors a year.

Those guests will work up an appetite at the amazing array of amenities beyond the aforementioned 223,000-square-foot water park and indoor play spaces.

The groundbreaking featured food from the themed restaurants Kalahari will offer in Round Rock – the Double Cut Charcoal Grill, Kalahari’s signature steakhouse experience, Mondo Sortino’s, which includes an Italian kitchen, pizzeria and gelato shop, and 5 Niño’s Tex Mex restaurant. Guests noshed in the shade under huge white tents at what felt more like a wedding reception in the Hamptons. (It should be noted here that Kalahari picked up the tab for this event.)

For people looking for a little pampering, there will be the Spa Kalahari and Salon. Alas, no pedicures or massages were made available at the ground breaking.

The great news for local folks is that all the amenities and restaurants will be open for people who aren’t staying at the hotel.

“When we design our resorts, we stay focused on adding amenities that everyone can experience and enjoy – not only our overnight guests,” Nelson said.

We got a taste of it all at the groundbreaking. We’re looking forward to the grand opening in late 2020 when everyone can savor all Kalahari has to offer.

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