By Kevin Collison
Bally, the owner of the former Isle of Capri Casino, now Casino KC, has filed a plan with the city that calls for encasing the fake riverboat with a contemporary facade and building 38,400 square feet of commercial space.
In a second phase, the plan calls for a seven-story, 150-room hotel to be built as well as a new garage. The redevelopment map also includes a future location for a streetcar stop, although that goal remains far off.
The first phase project was estimated as a $61 million investment earlier this year by Port KC, the property’s landlord.
Bally officials declined to comment, but did release a statement via email.
“We are very excited about the capital improvements planned for Casino KC and expect to commence construction during the first half of 2021,” a Bally’s Corporation spokesperson said. “We look forward to providing additional updates as the project progresses.”
The aging Isle of Capri, located near the riverfront at the south end of the Kit Bond Bridge, opened in 1996. It was owned by Eldorado Gambling before being bought earlier this year by Twin River Worldwide Holdings, which changed its name to Bally in November.
The former Isle of Capri perennially has been the weakest performer of area casinos in terms of revenues and attendance. The property is leased from Port KC. The agency receives an annual minimum rent of $2.9 million which it splits with the city.
But with new ownership, increased development at the riverfront and a plan to extend the streetcar to Berkley Riverfront Park, Bally has decided to up the ante dramatically on its Kansas City new property.
“We’re excited that these plans are moving forward,” said Jon Stephens, executive director of Port KC. “It’s a revitalization of the casino that’s long overdue.
“We’re excited about Bally as a partner.”
The basic site plan drawings submitted to the City Planning Department show a two-level commercial building that would have retail and restaurant space jutting north of the existing casino.
The exterior upgrade designed by JCJ Architects of Hartford, CT, would encase the old facility.
The planning document indicates the future hotel would be built to the northwest of the casino and the additional garage to the southeast.
And on an intriguing note, the plan shows a future streetcar stop at the far northwest corner of the casino property near the riverfront.
Tom Gerend, executive director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority, described that stop as a “placeholder.” While there is currently a plan that’s been endorsed by federal transit officials to extend the route to the west side of Berkley Park, it ends there for now.
“A (casino) stop is really part of a broader conversation and there is no funding in place to for beginning our planing scope,” Gerend said. “We want to have options open for Berkley Park and east, as well as I-29 and I-35.”
Both the Streetcar Authority and Port KC have envisioned a streetcar stop at the casino could not only serve that facility, but potentially create a park-and-ride lot for commuters from the Northland.
Stephens said all the projects in the riverfront pipeline are being designed with future streetcar access in mind.
“Anything we do in that corridor we want to contemplate a future expansion of the streetcar so we don’t have to adjust,” he said.
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