Kalahari expansion ahead of schedule

HURON TWP. People eager to splish and splash in the soon-to-be largest waterpark in the country migh
May 24, 2010



People eager to splish and splash in the soon-to-be largest waterpark in the country might not have to wait too long.

"We're ahead of schedule," said Josef Haas, chief operating officer for Kalahari Resorts.

Kalahari waterpark is slated to open its 93,000 -square-foot expansion -- complete with an African-themed restaurant, bar and a transparent roofing system that will stream in sunlight -- the first week of December.

Kalahari officials had originally planned to open the $50 million expansion in mid-December, but dry weather helped move along construction.

Most of the roof is in place, and all of the supplies and equipment have arrived -- all visible from U.S. 250.

"Thousands of guests have been promoting our efforts," Haas said. "Everybody is already planning to come back."

Visitors to Kalahari this winter will get to experience two Flow Rider surfing rides and a Behemoth Bowl that will rotate two to four people through a 60-foot-diameter bowl. The expansion will also feature a 13,000-square-foot mezzanine deck 13 feet above the main floor and an indoor and outdoor jacuzzi with a swim-up bar.

"We're also going to have a massive indoor wave pool -- the biggest of its kind," Haas said. The wave pool will be 13,000 square feet.

Once finished, Kalahari will be the largest waterpark in the U.S. totaling 173,000 square feet. It will surpass the Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells, which was the largest with 125,000 square feet.

"This one is going to be 20 percent bigger than the resort in Wisconsin Dells," Haas said.

Kalahari will be the second-largest waterpark in North America behind West Edmonton Mall in Canada.

Huron City Schools Superintendent Fred Fox said school officials are excitedly awaiting opening day.

"I imagine the kids around here and their families are looking forward to it," Fox said. "It's going to be a wonderful, year-round facility that families can use and enjoy."

Fox, who met Kalahari owner Todd Nelson several years back, said he remembers when Nelson first mentioned his plans to build condos, a convention center and expand the waterpark years ago.

"Everything he told me, he has done," Fox said.

After payment of a Tax Increment Fund, or TIF, Huron City Schools as well as Perkins Schools will collect more than $500,000 a year from Kalahari's real estate taxes. The real estate tax is split 50-50 between the two school districts.

"It's a win-win situation for Huron City Schools," Fox said. "It really has been a godsend for the school district."