How an intense passion for Africa has fueled the Waterpark Capital of the World and led to America’s Largest Indoor Waterparks

Todd Nelson grew up on a farm in Wisconsin Dells and began working a wide range of jobs at the age of 15. From an auctioneer to a railroad company to driving a beer truck, nothing was out of the question to help support his family.

A year out of high school, he married his wife, Shari, and at the age of 20 purchased a bar with his brother-in-law. Two years later, he bought the building across the parking lot, turning it into Pizza Pub, a still-popular Wisconsin Dells restaurant.

In the mid-1990s, Nelson visited Africa for the first time — the native culture, spirit, craft and artistry struck a chord in the young entrepreneur and inspired him to recreate the experience, capturing the magic and heritage of local African communities in the United States. It’s only been up from there:

May 2000 – Kalahari opens its first property in Wisconsin Dells.

December 2002 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Wisconsin Dells adds a $12 million expansion to make it the nation’s largest indoor waterpark at 125,000 square feet.

August 2003 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Wisconsin Dells expands the Spa Kalahari to include a hair salon within the resort.

June 2004 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Wisconsin Dells debuts 120 condominium units, the first condominiums in the nation attached to a convention center.

June 2004 – The first-ever indoor surfing ride, the FlowRider®, makes its debut at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Wisconsin Dells, the nation’s largest indoor waterpark.

May 2005 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions takes its ultra-popular, all-under-one-roof vacation concept on the road and opens a second property in Sandusky, Ohio.

February 2006 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Wisconsin Dells adds a championship golf course to the already extraordinary list of amenities when it purchases Trappers Turn Golf Club.

June 2006 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Sandusky marks its one-year anniversary by unveiling an impressive, newly expanded 77,000-square-foot outdoor waterpark, featuring a wide array of new amenities including luxurious African-styled private bungalows.

January 2008 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Sandusky opens its expanded indoor waterpark — the largest in the U.S. at 173,000 square feet — featuring a Texlon transparent roof and other unique waterpark features such as the world’s largest behemoth bowl, mat racers, a second FlowRider® and much more.

December 2011 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Sandusky opens a $22 million convention center expansion, making it the largest convention center resort complex in the Midwest.

July 2015 — Kalahari Resorts & Conventions opens its first property in the East Coast (and third in the U.S.) located in Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania, featuring Pennsylvania’s Largest Indoor Waterpark

June 2016 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions announces its intention to build the company’s fourth resort in Round Rock, Texas.

March 2017 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions opens “Phase 2” in the Pocono Mountains. Included in the expansion is America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark, additional rooms bringing the total to nearly 1,000, signature dining experiences and more.

May 2017 – The Sandusky, Ohio property adds five new slides to its outdoor waterpark including family fun raft rides, extreme thrill rides and loop slides.

July 2017 – Kalahari Resorts founds National Waterpark Day on July 28, 2017. The holiday is recognized by National Day Calendar.