True to its inspiration, Kalahari Resorts broke ground in Round Rock Tuesday morning with a tinge of African style.
The groundbreaking on U.S. 79 just southwest of Dell Diamond had a “sundowner” theme, a term used for breaks groups have during safaris. Sundowners often involve bringing in nicer furniture and rugs, creating a contrast with the surrounding wildlife.
Rugs, pillows and seats were spread out under a large tent for guests to lounge and enjoy numerous appetizers and refreshments before the official groundbreaking.
The approximately 300 guests also had a chance to take a virtual reality tour of the resort and convention center.
The resort, which is slated to open on Nov. 1, 2020, represents the resort’s first foray into the southern market. Kalahari hosts three other resorts in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. HKS Architects and Hensel Phelps Construction are overseeing the project.
Everything is bigger in Texas — once finished, the 350-acre resort will have nearly 1,000 guest rooms and be the largest among all of Kalahari’s locations.
The 223,000-square-foot indoor waterpark will also be the largest in the country, according to Kalahari staff.
“Round Rock, Texas, will be the sixth time we build the largest indoor waterpark in America,” Todd Nelson, CEO of Kalahari Resorts, told guests. “We literally cater to everyone and that’s why we build them so large. Whether you’re 6 months old or 80 years old, there’s something to do.”
Nelson gave guests a preview of the resort’s indoor spaces, including an indoor theme park called “Tom Foolery’s” featuring more than 80,000 square feet of thrill rides, a ropes course, climbing walls, indoor ziplines, bowling, laser tag, mini-golf and more.
The resort’s 200,000-square-foot convention center will include what is expected to be the largest ballroom, Kilimanjaro Ballroom, in Central Texas. The city will own the center while Kalahari will oversee operations, according to a city agreement.
The resort will feature a spa and salon and five restaurants: Double Cut Charcoal Grill, Kalahari’s signature steakhouse; Mondo Sortino’s, which includes an Italian kitchen, pizzeria and gelato shop; and 5 Niños, a Tex-Mex restaurant.
The resort’s outdoor pools will span 3 acres, and will include an outdoor space, Shenga, featuring work by African artisans.
The resort will be open to local residents based on resort occupancy, according to a Kalahari news release.
Nelson said Round Rock is the perfect site for the resort because of its proximity to Austin and Dell Diamond.
He said the resort will be a catalyst for tourism in Round Rock and a place for local residents to enjoy.
“There can be no negative impact on our residents,” he said. “This has to be positive for our residents and that’s it. Everything is done with the residents in mind here and we promise we will be wonderful neighbors.”
During the presentation, Nelson introduced his wife and five children who are each owning members of Kalahari.
His daughter, Ashley Nelson, who is involved in Kalahari’s convention center services and is catering manager at Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells, said Round Rock is exactly the kind of community her family hoped to be a part of. She said she will be moving to Round Rock with her family for two years after the opening to ensure the convention center gets off the ground smoothly.
Alissa Gander, the youngest of Todd’s five children, serves as the company’s corporate retailer buyer. She said the family is thankful to be in Texas, which became the top pick after considering locating their next resort in California.
“We felt more at home in Texas,” she said. “It pulled more of our heartstrings here.”
Among guests at the groundbreaking were numerous former and current city and county leaders, including Williamson County Precinct 1 Commissioner Terry Cook, Mayor Craig Morgan and City Council members.
“I think that just shows you the support of the project,” Morgan said about the number of people who attended the groundbreaking. “People get how big it is and get how big of a game-changer it can be for the city.”
Cook said she is excited about a much needed event space opening in Round Rock.
“The Sheraton has helped so much in Georgetown, but for Round Rock to also have (a convention center) says Round Rock has arrived,” she said. “It really says this is a destination place.”
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