How Kalahari will open U.S.'s largest indoor water park during a pandemic

The 350-acre resort complex includes a 223,000 square-foot water park, five restaurants, a hotel and a convention center space. (Rendering courtesy Kalahari Resorts & Conventions)
The 350-acre resort complex includes a 223,000 square-foot water park, five restaurants, a hotel and a convention center space. (Rendering courtesy Kalahari Resorts & Conventions)

The 350-acre resort complex includes a 223,000 square-foot water park, five restaurants, a hotel and a convention center space. (Rendering courtesy Kalahari Resorts & Conventions)

Kalahari Resorts & Conventions is on track to open a Round Rock resort this fall, despite a global health crisis that has hampered much entertainment- and hotel-based activity.

The company announced July 17 that the Central Texas location would open Nov. 12, two and a half years after breaking ground.

Building the resort

Construction has remained on track with the company's original timeline throughout the pandemic, said Kalahari Corporate Director of Rooms Karolyn Doro. Construction was deemed an essential industry by Gov. Greg Abbott at the onset of the pandemic in March.

However, the project's general contractor, Hensel Phelps, notified Kalahari in the spring that dozens of construction crew members on-site had tested positive for COVID-19. Following this, Doro said, portions of the site were temporarily shut down for deep cleaning and sanitation, and social distancing and safety measures were further implemented to follow state guidance.

Ensuring guest safety

Ahead of opening the country's largest indoor water park in Round Rock, Kalahari representatives said they have revisited health and safety measures at their three existing resorts in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

During the pandemic, Doro said all locations have enhanced their sanitation protocols using hospital grade disinfectants and are following guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by local health entities.

"Similar measures will be implemented in Round Rock, and we'll implement things that we've learned from our other resorts and best practices that we've developed while operating our resorts this current summer period," Doro said. "There's plenty of space for events to spread out and play."

One method in use is the implementation of social distancing provisions. Doro said this has minimized or removed the use of high-touch contact areas. Some chairs and loungers have been removed to increase distancing throughout the park, and the resorts are now offering cash-free payment methods to minimize person-to-person contact.

"It's also reassuring to our guests that, according to the CDC, there's no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs," Doro said.

Regarding the hotel and convention center use, Doro said Kalahari Resorts will work in tandem with state and local public health officials to determine limitations on hotel occupancy and group gatherings. With Round Rock's 350-acre complex, Doro said space will be available to accommodate social distancing for visitors come November.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include further clarification on temporary site closures due to a coronavirus outbreak.
By Kelsey Thompson
Kelsey Thompson is the reporter for Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto, where her work focuses on education, city government and community development. Originally from Upstate New York, Kelsey relocated to Austin after graduating from Syracuse University in May 2019.


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