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Kalahari Resort is big news for city, Celebrate Virginia

 Kalahari's Africa-themed indoor water parks in Wisconsin and Ohio are the largest in the United States.
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Date published: 11/17/2007


Kalahari Resorts, a private family company based in Wisconsin, chose Fredericksburg over two other Virginia locations as the site of a $200 million water-park resort.

The development, announced yesterday at the Fredericksburg Expo and Convention Center, marks Kalahari's first venture outside the Upper Midwest region.

It also marks a huge turning point for the Silver Cos.' Celebrate Virginia tourism complex, an economic engine Fredericksburg officials are depending on to grow their tax base.

The resort will be an enormous indoor and outdoor water-park complex, connected to a 10-story hotel that would include more than 900 rooms when completely built out.

The water park will include surfing simulators, wave pools, slides and a specialized roofing system that lets in UV rays.

"You will literally get a suntan right inside the indoor water park, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in January," said Kalahari President Todd Nelson.

The Fredericksburg resort would be Kalahari's third water-park hotel.

Room rates at the original Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., range from $200 to $400 a night. However, nonguests can also use the resort's amenities by buying a $39 day pass.

Nelson said his company looked at Williamsburg and another location just north of Richmond as other potential sites.

"We just felt the location here was better, working with the Silver Cos. was better and working with the City Council in Fredericksburg, it just meshed," Nelson said.

Fredericksburg City Council members have approved the basic framework of a large incentives package that helped lure Kalahari.

Council members gave their nod in a closed session Tuesday.

"There was no way we were going to get this business from other localities if we didn't have incentives," Mayor Tom Tomzak said. "I am very comfortable with the incentives package."

City staff members and Kalahari are still negotiating the specific terms of the agreement, but those numbers should be released in the next few weeks, according to Economic Development Director Kevin Gullette.

Government incentives have become an important tool in building Celebrate Virginia.

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A 125,000-square-foot indoor water park,

a 170,000-square-foot outdoor water park,

100,000 square feet of conference space,

710 hotel rooms and condominiums,

a 70,000-square-foot lobby, to include up to 10 retail stores, 3 restaurants, candy and coffee shops and other amenities,

a family fun center, which would include bowling, indoor mini-golf, a ferris wheel and other activities

a 20,000-square-foot spa.

A proposed second phase would include another 200 hotel rooms and another 75,000 to 100,000 square feet of indoor water-park space.

WHEN: Pending city approvals, site work should begin in June. Kalahari plans to open the first phase of the project in December 2009. WHERE: Kalahari expects to buy 49 acres next to the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center. WANT TO LEARN MORE? Kalahari will hold public-information meetings to discuss its plans on Nov. 28 and Dec. 4. Both will take place at 7 p.m. at the Fredericksburg Expo and Convention Center.