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Kalahari's impact is still being questioned
Questions remain about Kalahari's impact

 Even in January, with snow on the ground, the wave pool at the Sandusky Kalahari is packed. A similar but larger waterpark is planned for Celebrate Virginia in Fredericksburg.
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Date published: 1/6/2008


ERIE COUNTY, Ohio--When Kalahari Resorts opened here in 2005, the indoor waterpark hotel wasn't exactly a new concept for this part of Ohio.

Two smaller indoor waterpark hotels--Great Wolf Lodge and Castaway Bay--already were up and running, and Cedar Point, the 140-year-old giant amusement park, was a long-established attraction.

In Sandusky and in its original location in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., Kalahari has entered an established tourism market with an existing waterpark or amusement park tradition and begun to compete.

In Fredericksburg, it will anchor a tourism complex that is being built from scratch, the details of which still haven't quite come into focus.

That makes it a different challenge for Kalahari President Todd Nelson.

He already thinks he'll need a much larger outdoor waterpark than the 77,000 square feet he's got in Sandusky. Plans in Fredericksburg call for a 170,000-square-foot outdoor park.

As Nelson is figuring out how to enter a market new to his waterpark hotel concept, Fredericksburg leaders are trying to gauge how this new attraction, unlike anything that exists in the area now, will affect roads, police and fire departments, water and sewer system and the rest of what a local government does.

"It's going to have an impact," Vice Mayor Kerry Devine said. "We want it to have a positive impact."

Erie County officials gave Fredericksburg folks lots of assurances this week that Kalahari isn't exaggerating when it says it's going to generate $5.9 million in new taxes for the city annually.

Over the past few days, the city leaders who went to Sandusky were trying to make sure those new revenues don't get eaten up by the costs of providing services to the development.

On Tuesday, they should be able to release the details of a letter of intent between the city and Kalahari, which city staff will be talking to council members individually about on Monday.

That should spell out not only what kinds of tax incentives the city will give Kalahari, but other agreements the two have reached about things like how much the waterpark resort will pay for water.

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