GRAND CANYON CAVERNS - Owners of Grand Canyon Caverns and Inn east of Kingman on old Route 66 say the local attraction is due for a number of upgrades in the coming months.
The caverns will undergo a $2 million enhancement to attract visitors and to get them to stay longer in the area, said Co-owner Kim Kadletz, who has owned the caverns with three others for five years. He wants visitors to see the caverns as a "destination spot."
"We're going to be investing about $2 million or close to it. We got a contract with Native Plant and Seed from Flagstaff to do all the landscaping from Route 66 all the way up here. We are also putting in new concrete just to repair the basic facilities. In addition to that, we're making big improvements on what's available for our guests. We're putting in a disc golf course next month, we're installing an observatory platform and observatory."
Kadletz hopes to attract budding astronomers to the area by erecting the observatory near the caverns and believes the area is perfect for star-gazing, and it is just a short drive from Flagstaff's Lowell Observatory. "We're also building our RV park. We're licensed for 50 spots. We'll also have tent-camping areas for Scouts."
There may be more caverns to explore soon as well. "One of the things we're doing is digging toward the next level down of caverns," Kadletz said. The new caverns were discovered more than 20 years ago but no attempt has been made until recently to gain access to them.
"The prior owners had a sonar test done and there are at least two levels of caverns below our existing one. They think one of them has water in it. We've had what we call the 'cave diggers,' a volunteer group from the Phoenix area that comes out once a month. They're digging to the next cavern. They think they're going to hit it real soon."
Kadletz believes they will break through to the lower two levels possibly as early as this summer.
"First you bring in all the scientists to check it out and then the map people to map it," he said. "Then I get to go in and pick up all the diamonds and gold I hope," Kadletz said with a smile. "I'm hoping by the end of summer, we'll have gotten through the last few feet, yards, we don't know. Just based on the volume of air and the moisture, we think we're pretty close."