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WARRIOR CASINO & HOTEL

ALTOONA, Iowa | Backers of the Warrior Casino & Hotel just finished pitching their plans to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

The presentation featured a slickly-produced video that highlighted details of the $122 million project, remarks from projects leaders and testimonals from local officials.

Ho-Chunk CEO Lance Morgan emphasized the local ownership of the casino development company, Warrior Entertainment, a partnership between The Ho-Chunk, the Winnebago Tribe and local businessman Lew Weinberg and othe investors.

Morgan also touted the track record of Ho-Chunk, which was funded with seed money from the WinnaVegas Casino in 1994. The tribal owned economic development corporation has grown from a single employee to a global corporation with 39 companies and more than 1,000 employees. The company is already one of the largest employers in metro Sioux City.

"Our actual coporate mission is to take gaming dollars and create jobs in economic development," Morgan told the commission. "If we get this project, it would be like pouring gas on a fire. We would keep reinvesting.."

The Warrior backers also touted how the project would revitalize downtown Sioux City and restore two historical buildings. 

"What we're trying to do is create this whole entertainment district downtown where the casino acts as an economic engine," Morgan said.

The former Warrior Hotel and Davidson Building in the 600 block of Sixth Street would be the centerpiece of the project. The two structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The project would return the 1929 Warrior,  once 1929 and was one of Sioux City's most elegant hotels, to its original art deco architecture as much as possible. Plans include restoring the hotel's grand staircase, second-floor lobby, and grand ballroom. Floors 3-10 would be converted into 93 hotel rooms, including 30 upscale suites.

The complex will feature amenities that include a buffet, fine-dining restaurant, sports bar & grill, gift emporium and an 800-seat theater. The "crown jewel," of the property, said Ho-Chunk marketing director Janice Jessen, would be a rooftop entertainment venue on top of the 10-story Warrior, called Sioux City 360.

"It has a great view of the downtown skyline," Jessen told the commission

The 32,000-square foot gaming floor would include 800 slot machines and 25 table games. In its application to the IRGC, the Warrior projects its first-year gaming revenues at $75 million. Based on a consultant's study of the market, Morgan said the developers took a conservative approach to revenues, which would be 25 percent above the take from the existing Argosy Sioux City.

The Warrior project would create 461 casino and hotel jobs.

Ken Beekley, an officer with Siouxland Strong, a newly-formed local nonprofit group that jointly applied with Warrior Entertainment for the state gaming license, also spoke during the presentation.

Beekley, executive vice president of the Siouxland Economic Development Corp., emphasized the diversity of the members of the nonprofit board, which would have a mission to support job training and workforce skills, youth education, local entreprenurial projects, and "signature" community projects.

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