Shawnee Dispatch

Officials break ground at Hollywood casino site

Officials involved with Wyandotte County's new Hollywood Casino break ground Friday morning at the casino future site next to the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. Pictured are: (from left) Jeff Boerger, president of Kansas Speedway Development Corporation; Joe Reardon, mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County; Ed Van Petten, Kansas Lottery executive director; William Falstad, commissioner of the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission; Troy Findley, lieutenant governor of Kansas; and Tim Wilmott, president and chief operating officer of Penn National Gaming. Enlarge photo

April 30, 2010

— As officials prepared to break ground Friday morning on Wyandotte County’s new Hollywood Casino, growth was at the forefront of most people’s mind.

Unified Government/ Kansas City, Kan., mayor Joe Reardon opened his remarks to those gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony drawing attention to the day’s rainy weather and its significance to what the new casino will mean for not only the county but the state as a whole.

“Rain is symbolic of growth,” Reardon said. “As I thought about this morning and coming together with you all here today, that’s a lot of what this is about: growth. Growth in our community, growth in the state … We’re going to build the best casino in this market place and one that the entire country will see every time the cameras wiz by Turn 2 when we hold a great race here at Kansas Speedway.”

Reardon said the casino, which will be built to overlook Turn 2 at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., was an example of Wyandotte County’s dedication to growth despite the economy. He said equally important to the revenue that will be created by the casino, were the jobs that would be created, which have been estimated at 1,000 permanent jobs once the casino opens and thousands of others during the construction phase.

“I’m proud to be a leader of a community where over the course of the last several months into the weeks we have announced the creation of thousands of new jobs,” Reardon said. “From the 4,000 jobs that will come from the Cerner campus to the construction jobs that are at the Wizards stadium today and to last week when we had the head of General Motors come to our GM Fairfax plant and announce an additional $135 million-investment and 900 jobs at that plant. We are on the grow in Kansas City, Kan., even in the midst of tough economic times.”

The Hollywood Casino will be managed by the group Kansas Entertainment, which was formed through a 50/50 partnership between the Kansas Speedway and Penn National Gaming, of Wyomissing, Pa.

The $386 million phase one portion of the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway is expected to open in early 2012. There will be 2,300 slot machines, 61 gaming tables and 25 poker tables on a 100,000 square-foot gaming floor. The casino will also feature 28,000 square-feet of other amenities including restaurants, clubs and nightlife attractions.

Also with growth on the mind Friday was Lt. Gov. Troy Findley, who was present at the ceremony representing Gov. Mark Parkinson.

Findley said it took a lot of hard work among the many stakeholders and partners involved in the project to make the casino a reality.

“We believe in Kansas that today represents bringing forward a new critical piece to the Kansas economic development puzzle,” Findley said. “This investment, this committee, this new pathway we’re about to charter with the groundbreaking of this casino is going to mean an awful lot to Kansas, to Kansas City, Kan., to Wyandotte County and to the region. Not just short-term but long-term in terms of the jobs in terms of the economic implications for the state of Kansas and as everyone is well aware we’re all looking for more revenue in Topeka right now so this is a very very welcome event for us.”

Tim Wilmott, president and chief operating officer of Penn National Gaming, also felt the excitement of the morning and touted the affect the casino would bring.

“Today is a moment that really does signify an important next step in the development of Kansas’ next casino,” Wilmott said. “The ongoing collaboration between our partners, the International Speedway Corp., the Unified Government and the state of Kansas has proven to be a strong one since day one. As a result, we will open a first-class destination casino in the Kansas City market and the first of its kind in Wyandotte County.”

Simply put, Wilmott said, “Kansas got it right.”

Wilmott said his company deals with a lot of gaming jurisdictions across the country, but Kansas’ economic model has provided Penn National Gaming “the opportunity to be competitive with neighboring states as the region becomes more competitive in the gaming market.”

“Imagine in just a couple years what we will see around us, the Speedway , the Hollywood Casino, the new Wizard’s stadium, the Cerner office campus,” Wilmott said. “This facility will bring over 400,000 unique tourists annual to the Speedway when the casino opens and they’ll have so much more to enjoy.”

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