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I Can’t Wait to Have Pandemic Fun at America’s Biggest Indoor Waterpark

Just what we needed during a third COVID wave amid a pandemic in a state with a double-digit positivity rate.

A digital rendering of the outside of the Kalahari Round Rock location, with a yellow sign and stripe-pattern painted buildings and statues of elephants

A big congratulations to the city of Round Rock, Texas, and me personally for living here, because as of Thursday, November 12, we are now the proud owners of the country’s largest indoor waterpark. Yee-haw!!!

On Thursday, the latest addition to a U.S. chain of “African-themed” (I have so many questions???) resorts called Kalahari Resorts and Conventions has opened four miles away from me, and within walking distance of my parents’ house. Have you ever seen a more beautiful ribbon cutting, for a large indoor waterpark facility, in the middle of a third wave during a pandemic, in a state where we just broke 1 million cases?????

For years, I have watched the construction on this resort unfold. First there were the buildings, and then the buildings got painted. And then the pandemic hit, and then they installed the signage and a fucking water slide that goes OUTSIDE the building and then goes BACK IN, and built the roads connecting the parking lots to the highway and to the side streets, and then raised a few big digital billboards and some flag poles and lots of other visual bells and whistles to tell me and other Austin suburbanites that, yes, amid this pandemic we will still open on November 12! Book your company holiday party today!!! Be there or be square!!!!!

And this entire time I have just watched, wondering, who in their right fucking mind would book a spa day at this large indoor nightmare, or take their family out to a birthday celebration in one of the facility’s many restaurants. Because, in addition to being the largest indoor waterpark in the United States, the new Round Rock Kalahari Resorts and Conventions location also has the capacity for the following, according to their Instagram:

✅ 975 Guest rooms & suites
✅ 223,000 sq ft of Indoor Waterpark
✅ 3 Acres of seasonal Outdoor pools
✅ Tom Foolerys Adventure Park
✅ 8+ Unique Restaurants
✅ World Class Spa & Salon
✅ 200,000 Sq Ft of Convention space
Plus a few elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebra, & water buffalo (life sized statues, that is)

I have no idea what any of this actually looks like beyond what I can see during my walks and drives around the area, but lucky for all of us I have found a b-roll video of a fictional family (or, god, a real Round Rock family) exploring the resort, that the company appears to have shot ahead of the grand opening:

This looks like so much fun! And everything I would want to do! But maybe in 12-24 months, and not in the middle of a third COVID wave in Texas!!!!!!!

And admittedly, I am torn thinking about the job opportunities this brings to Round Rock, especially for my parents who are currently employed by companies that are slowly shutting down branches and chains. My mom’s employer started selling off chairs and monitors last month to employees and their families, and giving away tons of unused branded accessories and office supplies. This is the beginning of the end for that company, and for a while I thought, well, if she could just get a chill job at this Kalahari place, everything would be fine. My parents could have health insurance until their Medicare kicks in, and then that would take care of that.

But nothing about a mega-resort opening down the street during a pandemic in a state with a positivity rate hovering above 10 percent is fine. This is about the last place I’d want either of my parents — both in their 60s with long-term health complications, and with my dad recovering from shoulder surgery — working right now.

Of course, it is not up to me to control their will, but I am anxious about what damage an attraction like this might cause. The resort has COVID plans, but they’re far from foolproof, given that, according to the resort, a majority of this operation is INDOORS and masks aren’t required for guests when “dining in a restaurant, at the bar, in the water or in your guest room.” The employees are temperature checked, and the facilities are sanitized, but sanitation theater is no match for a potential superspreader event that could affect more than just the people who visit.

According to the Austin American-Statesman the facility is anticipating attracting 1-2 million people within this next year. This past week alone, Williamson County, where I and this water park reside, has moved from “yellow” to “orange,” the second-highest level of COVID guidelines, because our seven day-average in cases has risen. Just, please, please please, let this not become an opportunity for a COVID hotspot to fester. Please do not make me take on Kahalari Resort and Conventions Round Rock and the city of Round Rock as my mortal enemies to avenge the deaths of the people I love.