Developers eye potential for gaming at Roth Hill

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 14, 2002

NATCHEZ &045; As city officials consider how to develop their newly-reclaimed riverfront property, one potential use of the Roth Hill site is the location of a dockside casino &045; either a relocated Isle of Capri, now located on Silver Street, or another casino.

Isle of Capri representatives were in town last week to talk with city officials about a possible move, said City Attorney Walter Brown. No deal has yet been finalized, although a move is still a possibility, said casino Manager Wendy Grandin.

Grandin has said that at the Roth Hill site, patrons would have a less steep walk to the casino itself. And there is the possibility of developing parking adjacent to the site, she said.

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While Mississippi’s dockside casinos were once required to build land-based developments worth 25 percent or more of their boats’ cost, the Mississippi Gaming Commission has now upped that to a 1-to-1 match, Brown said.

That land-based development could include entertainment facilities, hotels and the like. And the city has been attempting to locate a hotel on the convention center parking lot site for months.

The question, said Brown, is whether the Isle moving 4,100 feet to the north would be considered a new location. &uot;My guess is that it would,&uot; said Isle would have to build land-based development equal to the cost of their boat, Brown said.

However, if the city cannot entice the Isle to its Roth Hill site, it will seek other casino companies and other developers.

&uot;I think if Isle of Capri doesn’t choose to do this, you’ll see a more intensive marketing effort,&uot; Gardner said.

&uot;We’ve already had four serious people interested in putting in a hotel or gaming&uot; approach the city with inquiries, said Brown, who has visited the Gaming Commission offices twice in recent weeks to brief them on the city’s plans.

&uot;We’ve heard from them some ideas that are very interesting&uot; for use of the site, said Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith. One of the prospects has mentioned the possibility of a putting Branson, Mo.-style entertainment on the riverfront, Smith said.

Although one of the prospects is the Isle of Capri, neither Brown nor Smith would name the other three prospects.

Smith said prospects hear about the city’s available properties mostly through word of mouth and through the marketing efforts of Michael Ferdinand. Ferdinand is the executive director of the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority.

The Gaming Commission and Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce have also fielded inquiries, Gardner said.

City officials named several different components they envision for the sites.

A study by Weatherford-McDade Architects shows a park-style layout at the foot of Roth Hill Road, with a waterfront plaza and other commercial or residential spaces closer to the foot of the bluff.