SIOUX CITY | Passionate about Sioux City's rich architectural history, Jim Jung jumped at the chance Friday to take a look inside one of downtown's most prominent landmarks.
Jung was among three dozen local residents who toured the Battery Building at the invitation of the group hoping to land a state gaming license for the proposed Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
During the walk through, lead Hard Rock developer Bill Warner laid out his company's vision for designing the $118.5 million entertainment complex around the century-old warehouse at 323 Water St.
Jung, chairman of the city's Historic Preservation Commission, said he believes the proposal respects the historic structure.
"They make the building the focal point of this project, which is exciting," he said following the 45-minute tour.
As the invited guests, who included other members of the preservation commission and downtown business owners, entered the building Friday morning, Warner's staff handed out Hard Rock baseball caps and glossy fliers that highlight the history of the four-story brick building, known for its signature six-story clocktower.
The Romanesque revival-styled warehouse, noted for details such as its rooftop battlements and large arched doorways and windows, was built in 1906 for the Simmons Hardware Co. From 1944 to 1956, it housed the Sioux City Battery Co. Even after it became home to the offices and warehouse for Sioux City-based retailer Bomgaars in 1973, it continued to be known as the Battery.
The brochure also drew parallels between Simmons, an example of the 19th century trend toward interstate corporations as the model for American commerce, to today's casino industry shifting to recognizable brands like the world-famous Hard Rock.
The Sioux City project, which would feature a 20-foot guitar on top of the Battery's clocktower, would be the first Hard Rock-themed casino to incorporate a historic structure.
"It's kind of a great marriage of the old and the new," Warner told the audience during a stop on the first floor.
The first floor of the Battery would be renovated for back office uses, and a portion of the casino's 750-seat entertainment venue.
Warner said the design would include as many of the Battery's flourishes as possible. For instance, he said the century-old wooden columns could be left exposed, similar to what was done in the United Center, another historic downtown warehouse.
During Friday's tour local officials asked Warner questions, and offered suggestions on how to make the proposal even better. After climbing four flights of steps to the top floor, the group entered the clocktower. Local architect Nathan Kalaher pitched the idea of making the tower into an atrium.
"We'll check that out to see if that could be done," Warner responded. "I think it'd be very interesting."
Warner also shared his own idea for preserving the facade of Dalton's Pub, a landmark bar across the street. One plan under consideration is to make the facade part of an exterior entrance for the casino's retail store, which would sell Hard Rock merchandise, and a coffee shop called the Fuel Express.