Hard Rock in KCK is choice for casino
The latest jewel in the Wyandotte County's crown is scheduled to open in 2011.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, a $705 million complex with a 300-room luxury hotel, state-of-the-art casino, retail, dining and entertainment venues, resort amenities and convention facilities, will be constructed at Turn 2 outside the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
The Kansas Gaming Facility and Review Board on Friday awarded the contract to Kansas Entertainment LLC, a joint venture of the Cordish Co. and International Speedway Group for management of the state-owned casino in Wyandotte County.
The proposal from Kansas Entertainment LLC was among three vying for the contract allowed under a 2007 state law. The Hard Rock proposal edged out, by a 4-3 vote, the Golden Heartland casino resort proposal planned for Edwardsville, just south of Interstate 70 at 110th Street, with an adjacent retail and residential district in Bonner Springs.
"It couldn't have been anymore dramatic," said Edwardsville Mayor Heinz Rodgers of the vote, speaking by phone on his way back from the board's meeting in Topeka.
"The first three votes to the chairman's right went to Kansas Entertainment," Rodgers said. "The next three to his left went to Golden Gaming."
A third proposal, Legends Sun, received no votes.
Then, Matt All, the board chairman, "gave his reasoning behind his vote, long and detailed," Rodgers said. "He asked the board if it would entertain sending the issue back to the Lottery Commission to renegotiate contracts, and they said they wouldn't."
All then announced his vote for the Kansas Entertainment proposal. All said his decision was based on the promises made by the group after its official proposal was submitted to the state, including the carrots of another NASCAR race and the addition of an infield road course for use by car clubs, Rodgers said.
During its meeting Thursday morning the board had asked Dan Biles, lawyer for the Kansas Lottery, whether Kansas Entertainment could be legally bound to these promises, Rodgers said. Biles' answer was, Rodgers said, "in his opinion it could not."
Ed Van Petten, executive director of the Kansas Lottery, said later that in order to make those promises part of Kansas Entertainment's contract, all the remaining casino proposal developers would have had to have a chance to renegotiate their contracts.
"It would have taken on an auction feel," Van Petten said. "We were wanting to get the process over with, get things moving."
Van Petten said because the additional incentives promised by the Hard Rock Casino developers were made so publicly, "it would be a major problem" if the group didn't keep its word.
Rodgers said he spoke to the president of Golden Gaming, Blake Sartini, after the announcement, and "We didn't leave anything to chance : We put our best foot forward, both the city and the applicant. We had all our cards on the table."
Rodgers still was able to see some good in the outcome.
"Bear in mind, thanks to the interlocal agreement, everyone in Wyandotte County are winners," he said.
The agreement between Edwardsville, Bonner Springs and Kansas City stipulates that the Hard Rock Casino would split 3 percent of gambling revenues, according to a formula, and parcel it out to the local municipalities.
With estimated gambling revenues of $234 million for the casino, that would come to $1,103,930 for Bonner, $651,807 Edwardsville, and $5,265,000 for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan.
Also, Rodgers said, the announcement means Edwardsville can move forward in discussions on other proposed developments in the same area as Golden Gaming's proposed casino.
"We look forward to future developments in the commercial district along I-70," Rodgers said in a statement. "There are many opportunities along the I-70 corridor and we are regularly contacted about development in the area and hope to have some key announcements soon."
UG Mayor and CEO Joe Reardon was optimistic about the casino project's success.
"The KCK casino will be the premier gaming destination in the Midwest. And complemented by the Kansas Speedway, Schlitterbahn Vacation Village, Village West and The Legends Shopping and Entertainment District, KCK and Wyandotte County will be the place for conventions, entertainment, family fun, shopping and dining," Reardon said in a statement.
A statement from the Unified Government estimated the project would create 2,000 construction jobs and as many as 3,000 permanent jobs when it opens.
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