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Kalahari Resort-Sandusky breaks ground on a $22 million convention center expansion

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Taking part in the ground breaking is. from left: Bridget Dalic, Erin Wasniak, Bryan Hart, Natalie Ennis, Maris Brenner, Teresa Bonica.

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A rendering of $22 million expansion of the the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.

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SANDUSKY, Ohio —  Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio on March 10 broke ground on a $22 million expansion that will more than double the size of its convention center.

The nine-month expansion project, which will employ 239 people, will result in a 215,000 square-foot convention center and an increase in meeting capacity from 2,200 to 5,200 attendees.

Todd Nelson, president and owner of Kalahari Resort Convention Center, also announced that the resort will start construction on six “Ny-Um-Ba Entertainment Units” bringing the total guest room count from 884 to 890. When completed in December 2011, the venue will rival most facilities in the Upper Midwest.

At a time when most meetings venues are reporting significant reductions in business and many companies have cut offsite events from their operating budgets, Kalahari is seeing an upswing in conventions and event business and is preparing for significant growth. Adding this level of event space to its current 884 guest rooms will make Kalahari the only under-one-roof complex in the Midwest to feature a convention center and hotel of this scope.

Having filled a void in the region since opening its 95,000-square-foot convention center in 2006, the expansion will include a 38,000-square-foot grand ballroom /expo center, a 12,000-square-foot junior ballroom, 14 meeting rooms, a 4,000-square-foot themed outdoor plaza connected to an indoor ballroom and 30,000 square feet of pre-function space.

“We pride ourselves in striking the right balance of features for convention guests and leisure travelers to ensure that each has a top-notch, yet very different experience,” said Nelson, who noted that, with this addition, the resort will have added more than $175 million in expansions since opening in 2005. “This expansion further demonstrates our commitment to building a premier meeting and convention venue in Northeast Ohio.”

The distinctive meetings philosophy, for which Kalahari Resort is known, will be carried over in to the new convention space to include state-of-the-art audio visual, such as interactive whiteboards, video conferencing options, high-end acoustical sound systems, HD-quality projectors and formatted screens, advanced lighting control systems and digital signage. Meeting planners will also appreciate smart design elements including electronically lockable built-in bars and registration areas as well as added warming kitchens in key areas to enhance food and beverage service options.

Kalahari’s attention to detail flows through to its décor with its use of earthy colors that are proven to enhance the ability to focus and aid in productivity. Meeting and convention attendees will also be greeted by authentic African artwork, décor and furnishings that have been hand-selected by Kalahari staff in Africa, as well as one-of-a-kind fixtures designed by the resort’s private theme shop.

“Many groups we’ve hosted have been surprised to discover the level of our meetings and event offerings. Although groups want to bring larger statewide or national conventions to us, in the past we were able to accommodate their guest room needs, but we couldn’t accommodate their function space needs,” said Maris Brenner, director of sales for Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. “We’re excited to open new doors for Kalahari Resort and the surrounding community with our added meeting space which will draw significantly more attendees.”

Ny-Um-Ba Entertainment Units
With the announcement today of the addition of the “Ny-Um-Ba Entertainment Units,” Kalahari will be poised to accommodate additional meeting and large group needs. The African-themed “Ny-Um-Ba,” which means “home” in Swahili, is a fitting name for the 4,100-square-foot stand-alone units. Two of the suites will be single units while two duplexes will include two units each, allowing guests to rent an entire duplex to sleep up to 44 or a single unit to sleep up to 22.
“These gorgeous units are amenity-packed and ideal for a family reunion or a corporate retreat,” added Nelson.

Features of the “Ny-Um-Ba” units include:

  • Four bedrooms with two queen size beds; each bedroom includes a 42-inch flat screen TV
  • One bedroom with one king size bed which includes 42-inch flat screen TV
  • Recreation room which includes a home theater system featuring surround sound, 65-inch flat screen TV, built-in bar, billiard table, and dart board
  • Indoor six-person hot tub
  • Fully equipped kitchen, dining area and breakfast nook
  • Living room which includes a fireplace and 55-inch flat screen TV
  • Outdoor living area which features a patio
  • Wireless internet access and two iPod dock
  • Washer and dryer

The authentically African themed resort has generated $27.4 million in taxes and fees for the public sector from 2005 to 2009 thanks to its wide array of offerings that include America’s largest indoor waterpark, outdoor waterpark and adventure park, restaurants, shops and Spa Kalahari. Named business of the year by the Erie County Chamber of Commerce in 2010, Kalahari Resort is the second largest employer in the area with 1,200 employees.

“We support this expansion and are excited to see Kalahari Resort continue to grow and bring added visitors to the area, thus spurring economic growth and adding jobs in Erie County,” said Erie County Commissioner Patrick Shenigo. “We’re fortunate to have this level of private investment in our community.”


Kalahari Resort-Sandusky, located on Highway 250 just north of the I-80 Ohio Turnpike off exit 118, is an under-one-roof destination hotel and convention center complex already home to 884 guest rooms and suites, a soon-to-be 215,000-square-foot convention center , the full-service Spa Kalahari, unique retail shops, the Safari Outdoor Adventure and Animal Park, a wide variety of dining and entertainment options, a fully-equipped fitness center and business center and the largest indoor waterpark in the U.S. To contact the Group Sales office, call (877) 647-6847 or email OHgroups@KalahariResorts.com. In addition to its Ohio location, Kalahari Resorts has a convention center and resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

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