November 16, 2020

CEO Message: Kalahari is a milestone for Round Rock

This weekend the community celebrated a milestone achievement: the opening of the Kalahari – Texas hotel, waterpark, and convention center. On behalf of the chamber, its board of directors, and the more than 800 program investors that make the chamber possible – we extend our heartfelt congratulations to the Kalahari team and the Nelson family.

The numbers alone are impressive. This is the fourth facility Kalahari has opened. The Round Rock location will have 975 rooms and twenty dining and drinking establishments. The indoor water park itself is the largest in the United States. The convention center is over 200,000 square feet, and that’s included in the total of more than 1.5 million square feet that has been developed for this project. With an investment of more than $500 million, it is the largest single business investment in Round Rock.

The number that is most important in my view, is that Kalahari has hired more than 1,000 employees. These new team members represent huge range of duties, skill sets and responsibilities. However, those 1,000 jobs all represent a new opportunity for the individuals that hold these jobs and for their families. In the wake of the economic turn down resulting form the coronavirus, this is a milestone that cannot be captured in a simple number. It will have lasting impact to the good for so many.

For all its size and sophistication, Kalahari is still a family business. The Nelson family has been on-site working alongside other Kalahari team members towards the big opening. In addition to being passionate about their mission with Kalahari, they are also passionate supporters of Round Rock. This is an ownership and executive team that wants to be a present and supportive part of our city. We look forward to working with them.

The opening of Kalahari is also a good time to remember that these projects take time, intention, and collaboration between institutions.

The concept of bringing a large tourism generating facility to the community began as far back as approximately 2012. Discussions among economic development leadership at the chamber and the city, and surveys of residents began to articulate a desire to diversify our future growth into areas of tourism not exclusively driven by sporting events.

From that relatively simple goal came years of hard work by hundreds of people. It informed successive plans ranging from transportation and utilities, to economic development marketing strategies – and the Momentum 4 funding campaign. These plans, the efforts of city and private sector business, and the community investors that funded the Momentum campaign are what put all the pieces in place. Armed with these tools and common vision, it was possible for a lot of hard work (and a bit of luck) to put the right economic developer in contact with the right company at the right time.

In 2014/2015 the economic development program of the chamber contacted a Wisconsin company that had already been looking to Texas for its next investment. Teams from the City of Round Rock and the chamber made successive visits to other Kalahari facilities to learn about their needs and speak with company representatives. Once Round Rock was selected as the location, it kicked off years more in work for city planning, transportation, and utilities teams.

Collaborating is difficult, but it can lead to lasting change for the better. The reason that Kalahari’s official opening is such an important milestone: it took leaders of vision, and institutions working together in the public and private sectors to make Round Rock Kalahari’s new home.

Partnerships between the City of Round Rock, the private sector, and others are foundational to our past success, and partnerships were essential in bringing Kalahari to Round Rock. The future of our community will also be tied to ability to combine hard work with community partnerships as well. I’m still new here, but if I have learned anything from this past year in Round Rock, if we work together, our community is up to the challenge.



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