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Kalahari to be one of biggest employers in area; will be far bigger than any other area hotel.

 Sara McCall enjoys the water slide at the Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
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Date published: 11/17/2007


Kalahari Resorts' new waterpark complex is expected to contribute $122.7 million annually to the Fredericksburg regional economy, company and city officials said at a ceremony yesterday.

When complete, the $200 million resort will be one of the region's largest private employers. It will also nearly double the number of hotel rooms in the city of Fredericksburg.

Kalahari President and owner Todd Nelson was in Fredericksburg yesterday to unveil plans for his company's third water-park resort and conference center. The complex is expected to open by December 2009 next to the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center in Celebrate Virginia South.

The first phase of the project will include a 125,000-square-foot indoor water park, a 170,000-square-foot outdoor water park, a 100,000-square-foot conference center and about 710 guest rooms. The resort will also have a spa, bowling alley, mini-golf course, retail stores and restaurants.

By comparison, the Wal-Mart store in Central Park, including the garden center, is 225,600 square feet. The outdoor water park will be bigger than three football fields.

Nelson said yesterday that the first phase of the project will create at least 800 jobs. Kalahari plans to add 200 hotel rooms and as much as 100,000 square feet to the water park during the second phase of construction. The complex could ultimately support about 1,900 jobs, according to the company.

That would make Kalahari Resorts one of the region's largest private employers. GEICO, Mary Washington Hospital/Medicorp, Wal-Mart and Food Lion were the only private employers generating 1,000 or more jobs in the region as of the end of 2006, according to data from the Virginia Employment Commission.

Nelson said most of the jobs will be service-related and will pay in the range of $8-$9 per hour. But he said there will be between 80 and 90 salaried positions that could pay as much as $200,000 per year.

Fredericksburg currently has 1,158 hotel rooms, according to city economic development staff. That includes the two new hotels that have opened in Celebrate Virginia; two more are on the way. The biggest hotel in the city--the Holiday Inn Select--has 193 rooms.

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Privately owned by company President Todd Nelson and his family.

Operates two water-park/resort/conference center complexes in the U.S. The first was built in 2000 in Wisconsin Dells, Wis. The second started in 2005 in Sandusky, Ohio.

After an expansion project is done next month, Kalahari's indoor water park in Sandusky will be 173,000 square feet, the largest in the U.S.

Name comes from a region of southern Africa. Nelson said "Kalahari" is easy to pronounce and seemed to fit for a water park. The resorts are decorated with an African theme.

On the Web: KalahariResorts .com