The Story of 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 culture, spirit, craft and artistry he saw there struck a chord in the young entrepreneur and inspired him to design a waterpark that reflected the beauty of African cultures.
As the Wisconsin Dells began to develop into today’s “Waterpark Capital of the World,” Nelson built the first Kalahari Resort in 2000 and the rest is history.
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.
November 2017 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Sandusky opens its brand-new waterslide, The StormChaser, a slide that knows who you are! This wild ride integrates, skill, speed, and competitive sports into an experience that will define waterparks of the future.
November 2018 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Wisconsin Dells opened Tom Foolerys Adventure Park, a 100,000 sq ft indoor adventure park featuring a 6-story ferris wheel, thrilling rides, a challenging ropes course, climbing wall, a zip line, bowling, laser tag, mini golf and 250 of the very best in arcade games.
August 2019 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Wisconsin Dells expanded its convention center to 212,000 square feet, doubling the available flexible meeting space to include three ballrooms and a total of 45 meeting rooms.
December 2019 – Kalahari Resorts and Conventions – Poconos expanded its convention center by 105,000 sq. ft., bringing the grand total to 205,000 sq. ft., including 33 meeting rooms, four large ballrooms and an Exclusive Executive Conference Center for up to 400 guests.
January 2020 – Kalahari Resorts and Conventions – Sandusky becomes first Sensory Friendly Certified resort in the Midwest.
May 2020 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions celebrates the brand’s 20th anniversary
November 2020 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions opens its fourth property in Round Rock, Texas – the brand’s first expansion to the Southwest. With 223,000 sq. ft. of indoor waterpark attractions, the Round Rock property is now America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark Resort featuring 975 guest rooms, three acres of outdoor pools, Tom Foolerys Adventure Park, 20 on-site dining options and a 200,000 sq. ft. convention center for meetings and events.
July 2021 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Wisconsin Dells expands Trappers Turn Golf Club with 12North, a new 12-hole short course designed by professional golfer Andy North.
July 2021 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions celebrates the fourth anniversary of National Waterpark Day with the launch of America’s first virtual reality waterslide at the Pocono Mountains resort.
December 2021 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Wisconsin Dells announces addition of Redd’s Piano Bar & Lounge.
February 2022 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions – Pocono Mountains announces opening of Cinco Niños, a modern Mexican restaurant and tequila bar.
March 2022 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions announces its intention to build the company’s fifth resort in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.
June 2022 – Kalahari Resorts & Conventions announces The Water Colors Life Project through its Nelson Family Life Foundation, providing clean water to communities in Africa and African artists.