Massive Facility Wants to Make a Splash in Round Rock

by Michael Theis / Austin Business Journal

$250M water park wants to make a splash in Round Rock

The Wisconsin-based owner of a chain of indoor water parks wants to open its next venue in Round Rock.

Kalahari Resorts and Conventions announced Wednesday that it intends to build a $250 million water park and hotel complex in the suburban Williamson County city north of Austin. The 200,000-square-foot park will be located on a 355-acre site that the company has acquired across from the Dell Diamond minor-league baseball stadium. Kalahari Resorts water parks feature large, enclosed areas for pools, water slides and other aquatic amusements set against African safari-themed decor.

“We looked all over the state of Texas and found the perfect location in Round Rock,” CEO Todd Nelson told Austin Business Journal. “We guaranteed the city that we would invest $250 million. It will probably be north of that. This is going to be a very big resort.”

According to the announcement, the Round Rock location will feature a hotel with more than 1,000 guest rooms, indoor and outdoor waterpark features, restaurants, an entertainment center, a spa and a convention center.

The company currently has locations in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin; Sandusky, Ohio; and Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. But its expansion plans have not always panned out. In 2012, the company’s push to open up a water park south of Washington, D.C. ran aground for a variety of reasons— even after it was zoned and approved by city council of Fredericksburg, Virginia — including a lack of financing as a result of the still-sagging economy recovering from the Great Recession. Originally drawn up in 2008, the plans were also complicated by development issues related to a proposed national slavery museum next door and public opposition to using state incentives to fund the project.

“The recession hit and we could not get money,” said Nelson, in reference to the Virginia property. “[Round Rock] is pretty much going to be a reality. We are pretty committed. The only way it wouldn’t happen is if another [recession] happened.”

Hawaiian Falls waterpark in Pflugerville in Travis County opened in 2014. Travis County is also getting in on the water park game, with a large “surf park” featuring a lagoon where surfers can ride artificially generated waves that executives hope to open this year.