New casino shows signs of progress

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 27, 2010

NATCHEZ — A conference room table at The Grand Hotel covered with coffee cups, water bottles and blueprints Monday provided proof of progress on the construction of a new casino on Roth Hill.

Premier Gaming Group President Kevin Preston said representatives from a variety of agencies and local people critical to getting the casino project off the ground came from around the country to attend meetings in Natchez from 7:15 a.m. to late afternoon.

“Over the past eight months we’ve been getting our finances together, and I feel really good about where we’re at,” Preston said.

Nix said the project is not as far along as he expected it to be, but he understands why. Geo-technical issues presented one delay.

“But I’m pretty happy with what I see so far,” Nix said.

After meeting with everyone Monday, Preston said the next step is forming a construction schedule.

Plans to break ground are set for Aug. 14, after the final soil report is delivered for the foundation design.

Architect Edward A. Vance provided several blueprints, which he said were the latest and “best” of a few drafts.

The plans are not final, however.

“It’s not changing, it’s evolving,” Vance said of the collaborative effort to design the casino with the approval of local officials and preservationists.

Vance and Preston said the design of the new casino will be executed with the context of the community and feel of Natchez in mind.

“We care about what we do here, just like you do. It’s all a part of listening,” Vance said.

He said he would be sure not to put up a “gaudy” casino sign, “that lights up like the Fourth of July.”

Although Cox was impressed with the plans he saw, he said he wants to see it all.

“I just have to put pen to paper. I think I have all of it up here, I just have to get it down there,” Vance said.

Preston thanked Natchez and local officials for continued support and patience. He said he thinks the officials are updated on the project.

“Just because nothing has been going on down on the hill does not mean we are not working on this every day,” Preston said.

“We’ve spent $4.5 million on expenses for the project.”

Preston said contractors, architects, Entergy representatives, mechanical and civil engineers, historic preservationists, Lane Company CEO George Lane, Mayor Jake Middleton, Natchez City Planner Robert Nix, City Engineer David Gardner and others attended the all-day series of meetings.

Preston said he has also been working with those planning the Natchez Trails Project, which will be incorporated in the casino’s design.

The latest blueprints show a boardwalk along the river with a stage for entertainment. Rolling doors would allow the area to remain open in the front, Vance said.

Preston said his company may consider choosing a name of the casino by opening it up to the public.

“Name the casino, win a trip,” Preston said.