Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lego My RiverCenter

Blackhawk hotel focus of casino input meeting -QCTimes

I finally made it to one of the new round of casino elections, and it was pretty interesting.

The meeting started out with Clayton recapping the previous meetings, and giving some revised money figures, as mentioned in the QCTimes article. Basically there's a real difference between what IOC would like to pay and what the RiverCenter is actually worth. Keep in mind that its the city coming right out with this info, and not claiming its only worth what IOC wants to pay or anything sneaky like that.

After the recap, the representatives from Restoration St. Louis presented, and were especially impressive. That is the company that has been chosen to renovate the Blackhawk. Someday. Hopefully. They showed off some of their 100+ projects in the StL area, and some were very similar to, and actually in worse shape than the Blackhawk. They also showed some artist's renderings and possible floorplans for the Blackhawk, including a possible mix of hotel, residential, retail and office. Even the anti-gambling folks who were constantly making rude comments and saying how gambling should leave Davenport were impressed by the Blackhawk plans. The only problem is that IOC is having second thoughts about giving away the building for $1. There was a definite consensus that this group needs to be allowed to get started on their project.

During the Q&A section, it became very clear that probably none of the people at the meeting thought the casino moving into the RiverCenter was a good idea. There were a lot of people that wanted it to move out of downtown entirely. Unfortunately city staff failed to point out that in addition to the questionable RSM McGladrey study's claim that it would be more profitable downtown, there is also an incentive for the city to keep them down there as leverage for the riverfront CAT grant. A number of people seemed against gambling entirely, but that really had no relevance at the meeting since gambling has been approved by voters several times. Finally Keith Meyer came up to the microphone and asked a rambling "question" that pointed out that he tried to get the SCC Culinary Arts program into the RiverCenter, and asked whether the city had explored the option of moving eServ into the RiverCenter, since the appraisal showed it being worth less than they're planning to spend out on 53rd. Apparently he pictures hundreds of cubicles laid out across the vast floorspace of RiverCenter South. After finishing speaking, I'm pretty sure I saw him storm out of the building.

Following the somewhat confrontational Q&A section, all the tables were given maps of downtown, along with Legos representing parking, casino space, convention space, and hotel rooms. The image on the right shows the current situation. White was parking, gray=hotel, red=casino, and yellow=convention space. We were supposed to place them wherever we wanted around downtown, as a design exercise. This caused another outbreak of anger because people were only given a map of downtown, and many don't want the casino downtown. My table consisted of myself, Joe Taylor, and Jen Olsen. Kind of an interesting mixture of opinions, although we agreed on more than I would have expected. I built my previously stated dream plan out of Legos, and they both seemed ok with it, so I presented that during the time the tables reported back to the main group. The group as a whole seemed fairly receptive to the idea, since it adds more to downtown without taking anything away. If you haven't read my post on that plan, I suggest you do. Here's the link.

A video of the whole session will eventually appear here on the city's website, in addition to on the cable channel. I urge you to watch that to at least see the Restoration St. Louis section.


At 8/30/2007 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agreed with you plan when you first presented it. Since then the Bettendorf events center has been approved. Tell the casino that if the want to be downtown they have to operate and carry the river center other wise the river center will lose all its business to the newer, cleaner, flashier events center.

At 8/30/2007 3:12 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

Bettendorf's is only going to be 50,000 square feet though, so the big events that we'd like to get could still come to the RiverCenter. Also, while the Bettendorf IOC is being hyped as having the most hotel rooms in Iowa, how many of them are actually available for conventions vs comped to gamblers?

At 8/30/2007 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well hate to burst your bubble but from what I've read 50K sq ft is about the same size of the river center's two big rooms plus the existing 9K they have. That makes them competitive. If you go by the amount of rooms the river center needs to be competitive that is only 50% of what the IOC has in its inventory. I am guessing that they aren't at capacity during mid-week.
Meanwhile the Radisson is wanting to hold on to its monopoly in hotel rooms and their catering contract but doesn't want to expand.

At 8/30/2007 3:33 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

River Center South alone is 49,000 square feet, so I have to disagree. The website claims 100,000 square feet of usable space, which would actually increase if you add the Gold Room back into the mix.

If I'm having a convention, I would choose the downtown that has things to do other than gamble.

At 8/30/2007 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

look at the capacities chart from the rivercenter website. a quick add up only gets you to around 65,000 which includes alot of public spaces that aren't very easy to cram a booth into. the only way you could get an extra 35,000 is if you count the entire Adler Theatre which isn't really a great place to put up an exhibit booth. Also is the Adler really part of the river center anymore? Isn't owned by some other committee?
The IOC has quietly done its homework and made a business decision to work with a city council that has less drama and more efficiency.

At 8/30/2007 6:49 PM, Blogger Snarky Chick said...

I wish I could have made it. Did anyone suggest my idea to put it on Credit Island?

At 8/30/2007 7:12 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

Unfortunately I did hear that mentioned.

It doesn't have to be near the river anymore! Lets not forget that we don't need to use valuable scenic riverfront land for a casino. If it doesn't go downtown, I fully agree with the people suggesting the old cinemas and hotel on North Brady.

At 8/30/2007 7:27 PM, Blogger Snarky Chick said...

LOL - I know, the idea bugs you. I like the old cinemas idea too, but then we lose the grant money.

At 8/30/2007 11:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

QCI - I think there is room by the Skatepark isn't there?

At 8/31/2007 6:49 AM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

If you mean North of River Drive, then yes. If you mean in Centennial Park, then no.

At 8/31/2007 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But putting NEW construction WEST of the Centennial Bridge?
Davenport One can't see that far from their offices.

At 8/31/2007 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plus Maryellen would nevet build on contaminated land. Unless it is good for her and her friends.


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