Though the first shovel hit dirt less than four years ago, one Pocono Mountains resort has completed an expansion of an already massive indoor waterpark and added hundreds of new hotel rooms and thousands of square feet in new entertainment space.
On Wednesday, Kalahari Resorts and Conventions hosted an open house at its Tobyhanna Township African-themed tourism destination to showcase its now 220,000-square-foot indoor waterpark.
The project received permitting approvals Wednesday night, said Travis Nelson, spokesman for Kalahari Resorts.
The park, which can accommodate 6,900 people, is America’s largest indoor waterpark, Nelson said. It’s bigger than Kalahari’s Sandusky, Ohio indoor waterpark, which is 173,000 square feet.
The Nelson family also owns and operates a Kalahari resort facility in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Highlights of the Poconos’ newest fully enclosed waterpark include a wave pool, swim-up bar, indoor/outdoor spa, lazy river expansion and a range of rides for various age groups, including the Screaming Hyena, Sahara Sidewinder and Victoria Falls.
Large windows on the ceiling pour lots of natural light onto the many slides, pools and tubes, and the temperature is kept in the low 80s, creating a tropical feel.
“What we did in the planning phase was to make sure there was something for everyone,” Nelson said. “Each one of those ages have been addressed.”
At a resort such as this, it’s difficult to not find something to do for people of all ages, including older adults.
“We have something for every single age group to do,” said Natasha Lucke, sister of Travis Nelson. “It’s hard to age out of place here.”
Aside from the waterpark, the $165 million second phase of the project includes two restaurants opening next week and a retail market and fitness center, both open. The total investment in the project for both phase one and two is $400 million.
For its second phase, the resort also added 520 rooms and suites, bringing its total to 977. Some of the big suites can accommodate large families and groups of about 20 people.
The Double Cut Charcoal Grill/Liquor Bar, a steakhouse and seafood restaurant with an in-depth wine list, wine cellar and new fireplaces, is set to open next week. Sortino’s Italian Kitchen will open above Double Cut and feature old-school and modern Italian cuisine, including wood-fired pizza, pasta dishes and wines.
“We are as much a food and beverage company as a resort company,” Nelson said. “You don’t have to stay here to enjoy our amenities. We expect lots of local traffic to our restaurants.”
Marrakesh Market opened Dec. 15, offering visitors an authentic African bazaar-style shopping experience with a variety of gift items. The market includes African-sourced artifacts.
He said the Nelson family makes frequent trips to African villages to buy materials made by artisans and uses these materials throughout the resort, in addition to buying artifacts for the shop.
All attractions and venues are open to the public, not just to guests who stay at the resort.
For phase one and two, Kalahari Resorts used Wisconsin-based Kraemer Brothers Construction as the general contractor and American Millwork and Cabinetry Inc. of Emmaus to create an array of interior woodwork.
Though it just completed the second phase of its project, Kalahari Resorts is looking to expand.
“The last phase for quite a while is to more than double the size of the convention center,” Nelson said.
The resort has 65,000 square feet of flexible space, plus 25,000- and 9,000-square-foot ballrooms, 15 meeting rooms, nine meeting rooms for smaller meetings, two luxury boardrooms and multiple hospitality suites.