Grand announces hotel, gambling vision
reported by the Providence Journal, Rhode Island
Rhode Island - The cavernous fronton at Newport
Grand, where the world's best jai alai players once thrilled
fans and bettors with their fast-paced sport, may become a five-story,
86-room hotel with extra space for dining and video gambling,
according to the casino's owner.
Grand is proposing to spend $20 million over the next three
years on improvements to the casino, with most of the work focused
on modifying the fronton, which shut down in 2003.
we've been doing since 1992 is meeting demand by building very
nice spaces that are nicely appointed," said general manager
and part owner Diane S. Hurley, referring to the year video
gambling made its debut. "This project will drive demand
by introducing completely new amenities to the property. We
think that's what we need to do."
her plans for Newport
Grand at a Senate hearing yesterday during which she asked
for exactly what Lincoln Park's prospective buyer is seeking:
a tax freeze for the next 18 years.
most important factor is tax stabilization," said Hurley.
"We are not looking for tax breaks or credits."
said Hurley, would help finance the project, which she projects
would double the number of jobs to 400 and allow for the addition
of another 800 video machines.
and the footprint of the building would not change, she said,
because the new hotel and dining facilities would be carved
out of the 40,000-square-foot, seven-story space that houses
the vacant jai alai court and 3,000-seat auditorium.
plans called for transforming the space into a performance venue
able to compete with the live entertainment at Foxwoods and
Mohegan Sun. But a consultant hired to conduct a feasibility
study determined that Newport Grand would be able to put on
just a dozen events a year.
also determined that the fronton was too small for trade shows
and lacked sufficient amenities for conventions, Hurley said.
of these seemed like particularly good answers to what we should
do with it," said Hurley.
But a west-facing
hotel, with a lofty atrium and rooms offering views of Narragansett
Bay and the Claiborne Pell Bridge, made sense, said Hurley.So
did using 30,000 square feet of space for more gambling and
food and beverage purveyors. All but the stadium's upper-level
seating, which is supported by columns, would be used, Hurley
emphasized that the improvements would help support Newport's
tourism industry, not compete against it. A "rewards"
program would provide incentives to visit local attractions
and a concierge service would provide transportation.
for a larger work force at the casino would also create demand
for training at the nearby Community College of Rhode Island
campus, now under construction.
Grand shut down the fronton -- citing the sport's waning
popularity and profitability -- the casino won approval for
another 525 video machines.
Hurley, there are 1,020 machines. Another 50 will be added by
July 1. That leaves Newport Grand with permission to add another
230 machines. Hurley envisions seeking approval to install 800
more machines by 2011. The hotel, she said, would open in 2009.
said Hurley, would help Rhode Island snare money that might
otherwise go to the casinos in Connecticut, and serve as an
"offensive" move against video gambling proposals
$1 spent on video-machine revenues at Newport
Grand, 63.5 cents goes to the state, 26 cents is kept by
the casino, 9.5 percent goes to the machine vendors and 1 percent
goes to the City of Newport.
Grand projects that, with the changes, its operation would
earn the state $877 million in gambling tax from 2006 to 2015.