Don’t worry, catfish won’t spit on youPublished 12:05am Friday, December 16, 2011
Chances are the giant catfish spitting water into the Mississippi River is out.
So, too is the wading pool inspired by the Mississippi River with various depths that would allow children to splash and adults to lounge.
Those were just two of the ideas proposed in 2007 by a group of designers that were offering ideas for the family park that would be the Roth Hill casino development’s investment in the community.
When the first designs for the town’s new casino were unveiled, developers pushed the idea that they were not just building a casino, they were also giving the community a riverfront park complete with family-friendly attractions.
Of course, back then the Lane Company was doing the preaching. They were also providing beautiful water colors of an amphitheater and bandstand sitting at the bottom of Roth Hill with the Mississippi River in the background.
In 2007, developers created their list of priorities for this family park for the city.
Topping the list was an interactive water feature, steps to the river, picnic areas, play structures and a bandstand.
A garden space, restrooms and an ice cream stand also made the wish list.
They were all an investment in the community, developers said back then. Actually you might not call it an investment as much a requirement of the state.
Since gaming began in Mississippi, casino companies have been required to provide what state gaming regulations call “infrastructure facilities.” These facilities are required to cost “at least 100 percent” of the construction cost of the casino.
Most state casinos opted to go the hotel route, building mega story palaces to house gamblers. Gaming regulations require hotels to have at least 250 rooms and have at least a two-star rating as defined by Mobil Travel Guides.
But hotels are not the only facilities the state allows. Theme parks, golf courses, marinas, tennis complexes and other entertainment venues are also acceptable.
In Wednesday’s meeting of the Natchez Preservation Commission, it was questioned whether or not the casino’s parking garage was part of the development’s infrastructure facilities. However, state gaming regulations are clear about what is not considered an infrastructure facility. “Infrastructure facilities are not such items as parking facilities, roads, sewage and water systems or civic facilities normally provided by cities and/or counties.”
In the last few weeks, since Premier Gaming Group — the new developers for the casino — gained gaming commission approval all eyes have been on the design of the casino. Unfortunately, few have been on the infrastructure facilities developers plan to build.
New drawings mention a gazebo, a formal garden around a historic cistern and some sort of interactive water feature for the riverfront to the south of Roth Hill, but there are no details. Unlike the watercolors of a light house and a bandstand at the foot of the river, the current proposal is little more than circles and dots on the page.
Developers have said that such a park would come later in phase two of the project.
If so, it is unclear what the infrastructure facilities will be, because gaming regulations state that “before any gaming facility may open to the public, all infrastructure requirements must be fully operational.”
If the park is not part of the initial development then what will developers build? How will they invest in our community?
Maybe they will bring the giant spitting catfish idea back to the drawing board.
Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540.