SIOUX CITY | The developers of the proposed Hard Rock Casino Sioux City say they expect the world-famous brand to bring scores of new visitors to downtown.
Billboards promoting the casino will be placed along Interstate 29, which carries thousands of vehicles daily, said Bill Warner, president of Sioux City Entertainment, which is developing the $100 million casino and entertainment complex with Missouri River Historical Development.
"A number of people are going to come in and stop to get a T-shirt, to check out the memorabilia, to come to the property because they recognize the brand," Warner told the Journal editorial board Tuesday. "I think that's going to draw more tourism to the downtown area, and really provide a catalyst for a lot of the businesses downtown."
Sioux City would be the smallest U.S. city with a Hard Rock Casino, with the next closest in Chicago and Tulsa, Okla. The developers expect the Sioux City complex to draw people from a 100 to 150-mile radius.
"When you have a casino that doesn't have a brand name that's recognizable, it's going to cater to the local market," Warner said, defining the local market as covering about a 30-mile radius.
Warner is president of Warner Gaming, which manages a number of casino properties, including the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas. Warner Gaming has formed a new company, Sioux City Entertainment, to develop the Sioux City casino, which would incorporate the historic Battery Building at 323 Water St.
Sioux City Entertainment and MRHD, a local nonprofit gaming group, are preparing to submit an application for a state gaming license with the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. The commission in June decided to replace the Argosy Sioux City docked on the Missouri River with a more lucrative onshore gaming facility, and put the existing Woodbury County license, jointly held by MRHD and Argosy's owner Penn National Gaming Co., up for grabs.
Though Warner Gaming is headquartered in Las Vegas, the company and its principals have strong ties to the Midwest, said vice president of operations and development Walt Fales, who also met with the Journal editorial board. Warner is a native of Cleveland, and Fales is from South Bend, Ind.
Fales displayed renderings of the Hard Rock Casino Sioux City, which would display the brand name and an oversized guitar on the clocktower of the Battery Building, a four-story brick building that formerly served as the Bomgaars warehouse. The century-old building would be renovated and connected to a new structure that would house the casino floor. Brick from the Battery would be used to blend the old with the new, Warner said.
The 100,000-square-foot complex would include 30,000 square feet of gaming space with about 800 slot machines and 32 table games, as well as buffet and two specialty restaurants. The Battery would house back-office functions, as well as a 750-seat theater for live music and other entertainment.
In warmer weather, the seating would extend outdoors, creating an amphitheater-like setting. It would be connected to a two-acre park that would be available for community events such as art festivals and barbeque contests, Warner said. Another idea under consideration is to show free movies on a large screen, he said.
"You can almost view this as a place where people can come and gather and hang out," he told the editorial board.