By Kevin Collison
A groundbreaking is expected soon on a $40 million redevelopment of the former Isle of Capri casino, now Casino KC, that includes a major facelift of the old ‘riverboat’ and a 40,000 square-foot retail addition.
The City Council unanimously approved the rezoning required for the 30-acre riverfront project, which ultimately is expected to be connected to an extended streetcar line. The 25 year-old casino was purchased by Bally’s last year for $180 million.
“We’re proud to be part of a vibrant neighborhood that includes City Market and Berkley Park,” said Michael Donovan, Casino KC general manager.
“With our redevelopment, we look to be an even bigger part of this moving forward.”
The initial redevelopment will include enclosing the current 300,000 square-foot casino in a contemporary facade and adding a retail annex for four food and drink establishments: Sugar Factory, Chickie’s and Pete’s, 1800 Baccarat Lounge, and Celebrity Lounge and Casino.
Bally’s officials said the contemporary redesign was inspired by the nearby Kit Bond Bridge.
The main entrance of the casino will be shifted to the southwest and an enclosed garage connection is planned.
The second phase of the redevelopment plan calls for a seven-story, 150-room hotel to be built as well as an amphitheater and new garage.
A future streetcar stop also is planned, although at this point, the new streetcar extension in the works for the riverfront stops far short of the casino. There is preliminary work underway for the remaining stretch.
Jerry Riffel, the attorney representing Bally’s, told the Council Neighborhood, Planning and Economic Development Committee the redevelopment was “incredible good news.”
“This casino has a long history in Kansas City, it was one of the first in Missouri,” Riffel said.
“It’s very clear based on the history of the casino and incredible progress we’ve made on the riverfront that this is a huge step forward.”
For years, the former Isle of Capri has been the weakest casino in the metropolitan area in terms of revenue 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.
Bally’s officials estimated the casino has yielded a $119 million economic impact to the community since 2017 including gaming, sales and property taxes, and employee compensation.
It generated $17.5 million in gaming taxes in 2019, the last year before Covid hit. Official say the casino has rebounded well since pandemic restrictions were lifted and are projecting 51.7 percent growth from YTD (year-to-date) 2019 to YTD 2021.
At its committee hearing earlier this week, City Councilwoman Theresa Loar praised the firm and its investment.
“This is a fabulous project and Bally’s proceeds their reputation,” Loar said. “They are an excellent company and they’ll be welcome in Kansas City.”
The $40 million Casino KC upgrade comes at a time when the downtown riverfront has seen a boom in development after decades of dormancy.
The 410-unit Union Berkley Apartments was completed in 2018 and construction is well underway on the 348-unit CORE apartment project being built by Northpoint Development.
Port KC also is in negotiations with an undisclosed developer for a mid-rise apartment project with 250- to 300 apartments.
In addition to the residential developments, Bar K, a dog park, bar and cafe, has found a large audience and a new public recreation center, cafe and bar to be operated by Bar + Rec is planned for the center of Berkley Park by the sand volleyball courts.
And The Thrash Group, a Mississippi hotel developer, recently confirmed its negotiating with Port KC to build a $30 million hotel across from Berkley Park to be called Origin KC.
Port KC also is pursuing a professional soccer and training center complex plan on the west side of Interstate 29 south of Grand Boulevard.
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