DANVILLE – City officials say the best location for the anticipated casino in the city is on land in the Southgate Industrial Park area south of the Lynch Road and Interstate 74 intersection.
Some other hotel and real estate representatives and another interested casino developer, however, say they’d like to see the casino north of that intersection off Lynch Road. There is an option on 78 acres by another interested developer north of the interstate near the old Redwood Inn.
Vermilion Advantage President and CEO Vicki Haugen said there is a sanitary sewer capacity issue on the north side of the intersection up to Main Street that would cost $1.2 million to address. Some say the sewer cost is minimal to address compared to the $100 million or so in development.
With the city on a tight timeline for the casino application to be into the Illinois Gaming Board in place by Oct. 28, the north side of the Lynch Road intersection was ruled out by Haugen and Mayor Rickey Williams Jr.
A casino steering committee comprised of Williams, Haugen, Tinisha Shade-Spain also with Vermilion Advantage, Danville Interim Public Safety Director Chris Yates, Corporation Counsel Dave Wesner, Danville Metal Stamping’s Gardner Peck, Venture Mechanical’s Jerry Connolly and Ward 5 Alderman Mike Puhr has endorsed the site.
There was an approximately two-hour presentation and discussion at Tuesday night’s Danville City Council meeting on the casino process to take place now that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the expanded gambling bill that included a Danville casino license.
The presentation was mostly given by Vermilion Development’s President and CEO Dave Cocagne. The city isn’t paying Cocagne anything for his work and expertise. Vermilion Development will be a partner and get reimbursed through the chosen operator later, Cocagne said.
Some questioned Vermilion Development’s public-private partnership and helping put out the Solicitation of Interest (SOI) or request for proposals for casino operator interest when it has a financial interest in the project. The firm also is being assisted by Chicago Consultants Studio and Taft Law.
Haugen and Cocagne planned to send out the Solicitation of Interest today and have responses back in about a month. They are asking items such as about casino experience, finances, amenities with the casino, jobs including using local labor and building trades, safety and security, a temporary casino and local partnership and investor opportunities.
There will be about a two-week selection time of a casino operator. Three to five finalists could be brought in for face-to-face interviews. There also will be public hearings and actions required of the city council prior to submitting the casino application.
Site requirements were: a minimum of 20-25 acres, immediate and visible access to Interstate 74, ease of site assembly and site control and compatibility with adjacent uses. Preferences for sites included: access to hotel rooms and other amenities and also adjacent land for other development.
Haugen said they ruled out 27 acres near the Martin Luther King Jr. exit with it being outside the city and not served by sewer. It’s been estimated it would cost $6 million-$9 million to get sewer out there.
They also ruled out the Gilbert Street exit at Interstate 74 because there is nothing available with that acreage, no time to demolish and it can’t be in Tilton.
She said the Bowman/ Perrysville Road exit at I-74 is a lower land site at the T-intersection with the backdrop to the landfill and not a lot of other adjacent development sites. Douglas Park also only has 15 acres.
Lynch Road at I-74 had multiple potential sites, with about 507 hotel rooms soon to be available.
About 165 acres north of Main Street off Lynch has 100 agricultural acres the owners are not interested in selling, Haugen said.
Land near the former Big Boy Restaurant, and other acres north of the interstate at Lynch with three different owners, has a sanitary distribution interceptor challenge, Haugen said, adding that it’s at capacity and one industry out there is trying to add restrooms and it’s uncertain that can occur.
Haugen said that leaves the best option for the casino as two parcels, one 30 acres and another 42 acres, in the Southgate Industrial Park. Sewer or utilities are not an issue and the land is owned by Lou Mervis heirs.
Haugen and Cocagne said the whole team thought this site is important to draw from Indiana, especially with a Terre Haute casino possible.
Other potential development, with the casino on the east side of the parcels, would be a hotel, retail stores/outlet mall, water park and events center.
“We don’t want this to be an island,” Cocagne said. “We want this to be an asset to the community.”
Cocagne also talked about trying to beat Terre Haute’s possible casino, saying Danville has a lead right now, in his opinion, but the Illinois Gaming Board has up to 12 months to approve the operator application. Residents in Vigo County, which includes Terre Haute, must approve a referendum before a casino can be constructed there. That vote could come later this year.
He said not oversizing Danville's site also will be important for a casino’s success here.