The grand opening of Kalahari Resorts' expanded indoor waterpark mixed a variety of opposites Thursday afternoon.
Business suits and swimsuits, Christmas carols and 85 degree weather, stilts walkers and cirque performers all added to the eye feast that was the unveiling of the nation's largest indoor waterpark.
At 173,000 square feet, the waterpark's newest additions include a wave pool with eight ocean-like wave settings, an extreme mat racer slide, another FlowRider surfing attraction, Kalahari's longest tube slide, a basketball pool, a children's play area and indoor/outdoor spas with a swim-up bar, among other things.
"We set out to create the greatest indoor waterpark anywhere in the country, and we feel we've succeeded at that," said Todd Nelson, owner and president. "When you set out to do a project like this, you have to say what are unique things that no one is doing."
One of the most unique aspects of the expansion is the "intelligent roof system" that lets in natural light and allows people inside the waterpark to get a tan in the middle of December.
The children's play area, Kids Safari, is 2,700 square feet and built specifically for children in the 1-5 age range. With shallow water, foam padding, slides, nets and interactive water toys, Kids Safari is designed to let parents keep an eye on their children from every angle.
Jacque Riffle, a nanny from Norwalk, took 3-year-old twins to the park Thursday to try out the new play area.
"I really like it," Riffle said. "We don't have to worry because it's not deep and it's a perfect place for them to play. Everything is their size. If you take them to the park everything is too big for them."
The event concluded with three performances by cirque acrobats who balanced, twisted and twirled with ribbon and netting on a platform stage in the middle of the wave pool.
"It's cool to see them stretch their bodies that far," said Paul Sangree, 11, who came from Cleveland for the opening.
By the numbers:
* At 173,000 square feet, Kalahari Resort is the largest indoor waterpark in the country under one roof
* Three NFL football fields could fit inside the indoor waterpark
* More than one million gallons of water flow through the waterpark
* Each FlowRider surfing attraction pumps 50,000 gallons of water per minute