Kalahari Project

Wisconsin-based Kalahari Resort and Conventions filed an application with the county on March 23, 2022, seeking to rezone nearly 135 acres of land between U.S. Route 1 and Interstate 95 from its current Agriculture (A-2) zoning to Planned Development Commercial (PDC) in an effort to explore the possibility of building its fifth waterpark in Thornburg. This rezoning request was approved on July 12, 2022, during a joint session of the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

A performance agreement between the county and Kalahari that includes tax incentives for the developer was approved by the Board of Supervisors on May 24, 2022. During the board’s August 23, 2022 meeting, it authorized a public hearing to consider adopting a separate performance agreement, which is required by the state for Kalahari Resort and Conventions to apply for the Commonwealth’s Tourism Development Financing Program.  The developer is sole owner of all debt with lenders and secures all financing, including the portion to be funded through the TDFP financing.

On September 2, 2022, the Spotsylvania Economic Development Authority held a special meeting regarding the required performance agreement. The county and state portions of the TDFP would be paid through tax revenue generated at the waterpark. TDFP is not a subsidized grant or investment fund. Much like TIF (Tax Incremental Financing,) TDFP is a program in which both municipality and state divert and contribute future sales tax revenues towards the developer’s debt with the lender. Once a certified project is open and generating revenue, a locality, the developer and the state divert and contribute future sales tax revenues generated by the project towards the developer’s debt with the lender. Before the project begins construction, the applicant/locality must receive TDFP certification. The EDA, which the state requires to be the applicant, subsequently voted to approve the additional performance agreement. Kalahari Resort would be responsible for repayment of all loans and Spotsylvania County has no liability should the resort default.

The proposal calls for approximately 1.38 million square feet of commercial space to include a 900-room hotel; 156,278-square foot convention center; 267,429-square foot indoor waterpark & family entertainment center; multiple restaurant and retail facilities; and a 10-acre outdoor resort pool/waterpark; creating more than 1,000 local jobs. The property is located in a growth-designated area with a focus on tourism. Once the waterpark opens, it is expected to generate nearly $ 7 million a year in tax revenue in excess of the tax incentives for Spotsylvania County.  At build out, Kalahari Resort is projected to be the single largest taxpayer in the county. The Board of Supervisors approved the new performance agreement during a public hearing at its September 27, 2022, meeting.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is this project?
The project is a family resort and convention center. The resort will feature up to 900 guest rooms, a convention center, an indoor and outdoor water park, and other indoor and outdoor activities. The development will also include additional entertainment, recreation and several food and beverage outlets that will be open to the public on 135 acres between U.S. Route 1 and Interstate 95 in Thornburg. It is estimated that more than 805 full time jobs and 743 part time jobs will be created by the resort.

Who is proposing the project?
Kalahari Resorts, a family-owned and operated, privately held company with an outstanding philanthropic reputation.

Why would this be a good project for Spotsylvania?
The project will bring diversity to Spotsylvania's economy, in addition to significant convention and hotel space. We believe this will generate significant new revenues while demanding fewer services than other likely types of development on this site. This project will also boost tourism within Spotsylvania County and provide increased visitation to other tourism attractions.

What are expected community benefits?
This project will diversify the property tax base by bringing a new industry — the resort/convention business — to Spotsylvania. We expect this project to generate millions of dollars in annual revenue, and will provide jobs for varying experience levels including: full-time, salaried, part-time and hourly opportunities.

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