rhythm city casino

The Rhythm City Casino in Davenport. (File photo)

As Davenport aldermen heard that the “substantive” portion of the work toward a land-based casino agreement would be done by early March, one Davenport resident questioned the haste.

Judith Lee told the city council Wednesday night she had more questions than she heard answers for after a presentation to aldermen by City Administrator Craig Malin.

“I’m rather surprised by the fast-tracking,” she said. “I think this is really risky. It still seems like we’re going on a wing and a prayer.”

The city announced in October that it was seeking to acquire the Rhythm City from Isle of Capri for at least $46 million through general obligation bonds. Malin has said the city hopes to have an asset purchase application to submit to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s April 18 meeting. He said another progress report would be presented at the March 6 city council meeting.

Malin spoke with Lee at length after the meeting to answer her questions.

During the meeting, Malin told aldermen that he anticipated a joint March 4 meeting of the Davenport Community Improvement Corp. and Riverboat Development Authority where an operating agreement between the two could be voted on.

He also told the council the city’s negotiating team is looking at other existing downtown locations that could be used for a satellite casino, that due diligence of the development team is under way, and that financing options are being considered.

“On behalf of the negotiating team, they have been hard at it and making good progress,” Malin said.

Alderman Jeff Justin, 6th Ward, reported the due diligence of the development team had gone smoothly so far.

“I haven’t seen any showstoppers at all,” he said.

The city has also received two different design options for the interstate casino site and has done a cost analysis of the site near the intersection of Interstates 80 and 280.

Among the analyses was the cost of running the diversion tunnel to the site. Originally, the cost was expected to be about $12 million and the tunnel was not expected to reach that undeveloped part of the city until 2030. But city engineers have estimated a sewer line could be run from the casino site to a 16-inch sewer line near the former Wacky Waters waterpark, off Northwest Boulevard, at a cost of $1.2 million.

Alderman Gene Meeker, at large, pointed to that project as an example of the city’s efforts to save money on the casino acquisition and development.

“We are trying to drive the cost of this project down as much as possible and cut down the public risk to the city and the taxpayers of Davenport,” Meeker said.

Alderman Mike Matson, 8th Ward, asked if biting the bullet and running the diversion tunnel to the terminus had any benefits. Malin advised against it.

“Let’s have a catalytic development and see what develops, then have that conversation,” the city administrator said.