CEDAR RAPIDS — Investors in a proposed casino here and their consultants say the best place for a casino is an area across the Cedar River from either downtown or the Quaker Oats plant, with easy access to and great visibility from Interstate 380.
At a Monday afternoon news conference at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, casino investor Steve Gray said he and a group of more than 60 investors, doing business as Cedar Rapids Development Group LLC, hired local firms Ryan Companies US Inc. and OPN Architects Inc. to help them pinpoint the preferred site from among 21 options.
Marc Gullickson, president of Iowa operations for Ryan Companies US Inc., said the investors and consultants identified two areas next to each other to retain some flexibility if problems arise with either site.
At the same time, Gray said the investors have signed a contract to purchase property from a downtown property owner
He added that the Cedar Rapids City Council will play a role in determining the final placement of the casino because the city owns much of the property both north and south of Interstate 380 along the river, which the city acquired as part of the buyout of flood-damaged property.
Much of the property identified for the casino site sits in the 100-year flood plain and will need to be elevated about a foot and half to comply with the city’s flood plain ordinance, according to the casino’s consultants. A ground level of parking, designed to take on water, may be part of any design, they said.
Part of the push to identify a site came from complaints by anti-casino group Just Say No Casino, which has accused the investors of not disclosing enough about the casino proposal.
Selecting a site, too, comes with one eye down the road when the casino investors must convince the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission to grant a gaming license for a Cedar Rapids casino, should Linn County voters approve casino gaming on March 5.
In opposition to that referendum, Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Waterloo has joined the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort in contributing to the Just Say No Casino campaign.
On Monday, the gaming commission released a document that shows the Waterloo casino informed the commission it has signed a contract with Just Say No Casino to provide up to $150,000 for the anti-casino group’s campaign in Linn County.
The report follows one released by the state commission on Friday that showed the Riverside casino has reported that it had signed a contract with Just Say No Casino and intended to spend up to $1.5 million to defeat the Linn County casino ballot measure.
The Waterloo and Riverside casinos are funding the anti-casino campaign in Linn County because they believe their business will be harmed if a Cedar Rapids casino is built.