Sneak peek of Kalahari expansion

HURON TWP. Dec. 21: Mark it down. That's the day Kalahari's new expansion wil
May 24, 2010



Dec. 21: Mark it down.

That's the day Kalahari's new expansion will open to the public.

"I love it. It's the coolest indoor waterpark in the country -- bar none," said Todd Nelson, president and owner of Kalahari Resorts. "The thing gives you goose bumps when you walk in it."

On Wednesday, Nelson hosted a tour of the waterpark's latest expansion before a group of about 50 community leaders and media.

Click here to see's video coverage of the project.

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 "It gives you a fantastic feel," said Nelson as he stood in the middle of a waterless 12,000-square-foot wave pool.

The expansion will make Kalahari Waterpark Resort the largest indoor waterpark in the U.S., totaling 173,000 square feet. It will surpass the Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells, which is the largest at 125,000 square feet.

Kalahari will be the second-largest waterpark in North America behind West Edmonton Mall in Canada, Nelson said, and the third largest waterpark in the world.

The foundation is set, the walls are up and the roof is in place. Spectators saw the waterpark's new, transparent roof that can stream in sunlight.

A 13,000-square-foot mezzanine deck 13 feet above the main floor will host an area for sunbathers.

Choosing what types of rides to install was tough for many of the waterpark's officials.

"We were sensitive to pick rides and not duplicate," said Josef Haas, chief operating officer for Kalahari Resorts.

The only ride Kalahari officials decided to repeat in the new expansion is the very popular Flowrider, a surfing ride where guests can learn to surf.

Also new will be a Behemoth Bowl that can rotate two to four people through a 60-foot-diameter bowl, Mat Racers that shoots a person down a 55-foot incline and a Pro Bowl tube slide.

A 2,500-square-foot children's area, a 3,700-square-foot basketball pool and a 400-foot-long Rippling Rhino slide -- the longest tube slide at Kalahari -- will also be included. For the grown ups, an indoor and outdoor spa featuring a swim-up bar will be a new addition.

Local officials and media were also taken on a tour of the indoor waterpark's underground operations -- a tour that will also be offered to resort guests beginning Oct. 13. The tours showcase a behind-the-scenes look at Kalahari's operations. One fun fact: More than 2 million gallons of water are pumped each day to keep the rides in operation.

The complimentary tours, titled "Beyond the slides" will be offered at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. See the front desk to schedule a tour.

Pictures of the rides with tidbits of information are posted on the temporary wall that divides the expansion from the current waterpark operations.

"When that wall comes completely down and it's a seamless experience, I think our guests are just going to be blown away," Nelson said.

Eric and Nancy Maurer, along with their 15-year-old daughter Lauren and her friend, made their way to Kalahari from Parma for a day trip Wednesday. It was the family's first trip to the indoor waterpark. Eyeing the photos of the new rides on the wall, Eric Maurer was optimistic about the future of the waterpark.

"It looks like it's going to be pretty good," he said.

"Oh yeah!" chimed in his daughter Lauren.

The total cost to expand the Kalahari is $55 million, which includes the additional 96 condominiums under construction next to the waterpark. The condominiums are also slated to open in December.

Officials said room and day rates will remain the same. After the expansion is complete, officials plan to begin expanding the outdoor waterpark. Plans for next year include building a giant resort pool, food area and new bathrooms, Nelson said.