South suburban casino on pace for summer opening

Chicago Tribune
South suburban casino on pace for summer opening
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A south suburban casino is on track for a summer opening as work progresses to get the East Hazel Crest building “under roof” before winter weather hits, according to an executive with casino developer Wind Creek Hospitality.

Taking shape southwest of the interchange of Interstate 80 and Halsted Street, drivers likely notice the biggest feature of the project, a 16-story, 252-room hotel. A “topping out” of the structure, as far as finishing the steel framework, is expected to happen in about three weeks, according to Roger Kuehn, executive vice president and general manager for Wind Creek Chicago Southland.

The height of the tower was reduced from the original 21 stories due to costs of materials such as steel.

Wind Creek previously estimated the casino would be ready for customers by late summer or early fall of this year, but Kuehn said Friday construction is on track for an opening sometime from July to September 2024.

“It is still kind of a dart throw, but I would expect sometime in third quarter of 2024,” Kuehn said. “I think that is a fair timeline.”

Work to enclose the 73,000-square-foot casino is progressing, and Kuehn said he anticipates that phase to be completed sometime between the middle of next month and early January, before the harshest winter weather arrives.

Dry and relatively mild conditions so far helped extend the outdoor construction season.

“Every day I wake up and see clear skies and sunshine,” he said.

Once the casino building is enclosed, work can start on the guts of the structure, or “the heart of the property,” including plumbing, electrical and computer systems, Kuehn said.

He said the hotel is scheduled to open about four or five months after the casino is ready for customers.

The broader footprint of the casino takes in property in both East Hazel Crest and Homewood, with the casino and hotel in East Hazel Crest and parking garages in Homewood.

The property at one point was home to two hotels. A Sheraton, later on Homewood Hotel, was on the Homewood side and a Super 8 in East Hazel Crest, both of which were demolished.

The two suburbs will share in gambling revenue the casino produces, but some of the money will also be parceled out to 42 other south suburban communities, under state legislation that made the south suburban casino possible.

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Wind Creek said the casino will feature 1,350 slot machines and 56 table games. The casino will have a 13,000-square-foot buffet area and 10,000-square-foot entertainment area, according to plans.

Wind Creek is a subsidiary of PCI Gaming Authority Inc., which manages 10 casinos and other gambling properties on behalf of the Alabama-based Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Once finished, officials estimate the project will create about 800 permanent jobs, and Wind Creek has already been recruiting for key positions.

Kuehn said that, about two months before the casino’s opening, Wind Creek will host job fairs, and a second one could be held closer to the opening date.

Kuehn, who has been with Wind Creek since 2008, said he is spending a lot of time with community leaders who are eager for the casino’s opening. At the request of Homewood Mayor Rich Hofeld, he was asked to walk in the village’s Fourth of July parade.

“The community is embracing us and they can’t wait for us to open,” Kuehn said. “They’re dying to play and see the concerts we’ll have.”