Construction starts on Round Rock resort

With a Tuesday morning ground breaking ceremony, work got underway to transform 351 acres of land in Round Rock.

The south end of property runs along a brushy creek, across highway 79 in Dell Diamond.  The plan is to make the site a major entertainment destination. For Todd Nelson president and CEO of Kalahari Resorts the project in Round Rock is his first venture into a southern state. 

"We love it down here, you guys get it, you understand business, you get the whole deal," said Nelson.

 At a half a billion dollars, it is a big deal. "We're building this thing at the magnitude that people will want to get here and see it," said Nelson.

The resort will feature a 975 room hotel with several different types of restaurants. A 150,000 square foot convention center is a key part of the complex.  But the main attractions will be an indoor amusement park and what will be the largest indoor/outdoor water park in the nation. Other attempts to bring a large water attraction to the Austin metro have failed to materialize or have struggled financially.

Despite that track record, Nelson believes his model will be successful.

"We are 100% confident this will work. Schlitterbahn is an outdoor park, wonderful place in New

Braunfels, but there are no indoor parks, I’m really finding the value of shade," said Nelson.

The plan is to open by the first of November 2020.

It took about 3 years to get to this point, the biggest part is the incentive plan. There is local and state money in play but everything hinges on the performance of the resort.

"I think it is definitely the right deal for the Round Rock taxpayer," said Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan.

The deal, Morgan believes, will eventually make money for the city, but it does require a sizable investment.

Here are some of the key parts;

The company is required to invest at least $350 million and employ 700 jobs. The city will float a $30-million bond for infrastructure improvements like road and utility upgrades. And another $40-million for the convention center. The land was also purchased by the city for $27.5 million with $17 million put up by Kalahari Resorts.

"So we have ownership of the land and so that gives us the greatest protection, of any economic development we've done," said Morgan.

Sales tax revenue generated must first go to debt payments the remaining profit is to be split 75% going to the resort and 25% going to the city. After the public debt is paid the resort has the option of buying the 351 acres of land for a dollar an acre. 

As part of the ceremony the resort signed booking commitments from three Texas organizations.

Another three groups, were looking to make the resort their convention site.