Archive for Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Casino to spur development, chamber told

November 10, 2010

With progress already running ahead of schedule, indications are the new Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway will only spur further development in Wyandotte County.

Jeff Boerger, president of the Kansas Speedway Development Corp., gave an update on the casino’s progress Thursday at the Bonner Springs-Edwardsville Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting.

“Our whole goal is to make it the best customer experience in motorsports but also the best customer experience in gaming,” he said.

Boerger said the speedway, built in 2001, was the only track in the country that trended up in attendance during the recession. It generates about $300 million in revenue annually, he said.

This all bodes well for the success of the casino, which will create 1,700 new construction jobs and, once it opens, 1,050 new casino jobs. Boerger said the $400 million first phase is estimated to bring in at least 4 million visitors annually.

“It’s going to create a lot more tourism,” Boerger said. “… It’s just driving more revenue and more folks over to Kansas.”

Full-blown construction began in June, and construction has progressed from earthmoving to foundation-laying. Boerger said by the end of this month, the foundation should be complete. The goal, he said, is to open the casino in the second quarter of 2012, but steps are being taken to try to get it open three months earlier than that.

Boerger said a hotel was still in the plans for future phases of development, planned to open in two years, but developers were still working with hotel operators to create a partnership. Until then, the casino will have a “virtual hotel” that will connect visitors with the websites of the hotels already existing in the area. Boerger said holding off on the hotel construction until the economy can support both existing hotels and the casino hotel makes sense.

“We don’t want to cannibalize our neighbors,” he said.

Future development plans also include more retail and a 90,000 square-foot convention and event space facility.

As a state-owned casino, a portion of the annual revenues will go back to the community. Boerger said $500,000 would be given to nonhost school districts, like Bonner Springs-Edwardsville USD 204, and another $500,000 would go to charitable causes. The Unified Government’s Parks and Recreation Department will receive $100,000 and the Kansas City, Kan. Convention and Visitor’s Bureau will receive $25,000, while $10,000 will be made available for local chambers of commerce.

Additionally, 1 percent of gaming revenues will go to the Unified Government, an estimated $2 million each year. Of the $200 million in revenue the casino is expected to generate, Boerger said $80 million would go back to the community.

Boerger detailed the casino’s art deco design and restaurants: the high-end “Final Cut” steakhouse, a sports bar and a buffet, all of which overlook the speedway.

At the speedway, new lights are being installed for the infield road course, which should see its first races in 2012.

With the speedway’s current numbers and projections for the casino, it appears a prediction Boerger said he made in 1998 will come true. Boerger told the speedway’s developers back then that he would bet in 10 to 20 years, the Kansas Speedway would be the top revenue-generating racetrack in the country — even higher than Daytona.

“When the casino opens, it will be,” he said.

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