The design and construction of an efficient near-infrared holosteric optical parametric oscillator amplifier based on KTiOPO 4 (KTP) crystal are reported. The system is tunable from 840 to 1451 nm and generates up to 0.45 mJ at 920 nm with 27% efficiency in 4 - 6 ns pulses. The 532 nm pump source is a frequency doubled laser-diode pumped Nd:YAG laser producing up to 2 mJ in 8 ns, 50 Hz pulses. We have used the system to study the fluorescence lifetimes of Yb:YAG and Yb:glass as a function of wavelength. The data reveal interesting variations in the reabsorption enhanced Yb-ion lifetime. Some Yb:YAG samples exhibiting a sharp increase in their lifetime near the peak absorption wavelengths. The longest lifetime measured in a few mm thick sample of Yb:YAG was 3.3 ms, which would be highly beneficial for energy storage applications using laser diodes.