Families gathered outside as a full fireworks display lit up the sky commemorating the grand opening of Kalahari Resorts & Conventions in Round Rock on Nov. 14.

Kalahari founder and CEO Todd Nelson said his team knew they wanted to come to Texas. After looking for sites in Dallas and Frisco, Nelson said he discovered that wasn’t where they needed to be.

“It felt like corporate America, and we’re not corporate America,” Nelson said of the Dallas area. “I would not want to be in any place on earth besides right here [in Round Rock].”

Kalahari celebrated its ribbon-cutting Nov. 12 and welcomed its first family. Since then, hundreds of families have enjoyed all the resort has to offer, including the country’s largest indoor water park and the Tom Foolerys adventure park filled with an arcade room, games, rock climbing, a roller coaster and more.

The African-themed resort broke ground in May 2018 with an opening date set two and half years later for November 2020, Nelson said. And it managed to stay on schedule, despite a global pandemic.

Boasting 975 rooms and 20 food and drink options, Kalahari brings more than 1,000 jobs to the Round Rock area at a time when many were seeking employment due to the economic impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Travel and tourism industry has been devastated across the country, and even here in Round Rock,” Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan said. “For this to be open, it just invigorated the community.”

Morgan said that as a family-owned business, the Nelsons have truly invested in the Round Rock community. With a $550 million development increasing the city’s tax base, Kalahari choosing Round Rock to be its home will help keep taxes lower for residents, he said.

Morgan added that it has been part of the city’s strategic plan to create a live-work-play status in Round Rock. With Kalahari located across the street from the Dell Diamond, Morgan said the resort only moves the city closer to that goal.

“This is the new entertainment area for Round Rock, Texas,” Morgan said.

Kalahari Executive Vice President Bill Otto told Community Impact Newspaper that with exception of the pools, which are reserved for resort guests only, everything Kalahari offers is open to area residents. For example, all of the restaurants have outside access, and the facility sells day passes to the water park.

This is the fourth Kalahari resort with other locations in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“This isn’t just a win for the city of Round Rock but also for the entire state of Texas,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a video. “Texas is the premier economic destination in America, and that's because of companies like Kalahari that choose to invest in our top-notch locals, our world-class infrastructure and the thriving business economy that we have.”