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First of two public information sessions held on plans for a water-park resort in Fredericksburg
About 100 area residents gathered at the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center last night to learn about the Kalahari Resorts' plans for a hotel and water park at Celebrate Virginia South.
The session lasted a little short of two hours, most of which the organizers spent describing the benefits the resort would bring Fredericksburg. There were also questions afterward.
Earlier this month, Todd Nelson. president of the Wisconsin-based company, announced plans to open his privately held company's third resort hotel and water park on a 49-acre site next to the Expo Center by the end of 2009. The other two parks are in Wisconsin and Ohio.
Last night was the first of two scheduled public information sessions.
The $200 million complex is expected to 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 a 710-room resort hotel.
Chris Hornung, vice president for planning and engineering for the Silver Cos., told the audience that he has visited one of Kalahari's parks. The Silvers are developing the Celebrate Virginia tourism complex.
"When you're there it's incredible," Hornung said of the resorts. "It's pretty difficult without being there to explain it."
He said the complex would bring conventioneers and tourists to Fredericksburg and would generate an expected $5.9 million in tax revenue its first year, money that would help pay for the city's planned capital projects and keep real estate taxes down.
Hornung noted that tax revenues from Central Park provide the city with 15 percent to 20 percent of the its budget, but the retail center's sales are declining as other shopping choices have sprung up. He noted that Kalahari's resort would be the "crowning piece" of Celebrate Virginia.
Traffic has been one of the main concerns raised, and several questions from the audience addressed that. Hornung said retail generates more traffic than a place like Kalahari where visitors often stay for two or more nights. He said the Silvers are studying ways to connect Celebrate Virginia with downtown.
Another big concern has been water usage. Hornung said the resort would use about 260,000 gallons a day, well within the city's capacity. He noted that Kalahari has used energy-saving features at its other resorts including solar power and fluorescent bulbs.
After the presentation, questions were asked about topics including the United States National Slavery Museum (Hornung said they're still hopeful it'll happen), traffic on Fall Hill Avenue (the city has made widening it a priority project) and access from Interstate 95 (project planners are pushing for an interchange).
Another public information session will be held starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Expo Center. In the meantime, people can e-mail questions to kmgullette @fredericksburgva.gov.Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405