New Renderings And Details Revealed For City Casino Bids

Rendering of Rivers The 78 proposal by Rivers Casino

New renderings and details have been revealed for the multiple casino bids in the city spread across various sites in the city. Elaborating on the initial information, we now have further numbers from all five and their temporary casino locations as part of a multi-year process to bring a gambling facility within city borders. The city has requested from developers a place-making gaming destination with lodging, dining, and entertainment that contributes to the urban fabric and focuses on partnerships with local minority organizations.

Rendering of Ballys Tribune Publishing Center proposal by Ballys

Ballys Tribune Publishing Center Bid

The first of the five bids comes from Rhode Island-based Ballys who promises to make their Chicago project their flagship property. The $1.8 billion proposal will be split into two phases and utilize their global customer database of over 20 million people to promote the new casino. The first phase would come with a $1 billion price tag and be expanded on, pending the company achieving a sustainable 20 percent return on initial investment, with a further $600 million expansion. If awarded this location, Ballys is offering the city an upfront incentive payment of $25 million.

Rendering of riverfront amenities of Ballys Tribune Publishing Center proposal by Ballys

A temporary gaming facility would be built at a nearby building before work begins on the permanent complex, which sits on a 30-acre parcel which Ballys currently controls via an option agreement with sellers. The first phase will bring 2,700 slot machines, 95 table games, a 100-suite hotel, outdoor music venue, and dining options curated by One Off Hospitality. Phase two would bring 700 slot machines along with a 400-room hotel tower with rooftop pool, 3,000-seat indoor entertainment venue, 20,000-square-foot exhibition center with Chicago sports museum, and extended amenities and dining. A further 600-slot-machine option remains with potential for placement at both airports.

Rendering of Ballys McCormick Place proposal by Ballys

Ballys McCormick Place Bid

The second bid from Ballys would take over the McCormick Place Truck Marshalling Yards and add to the existing convention and entertainment district. Committing to the city, Ballys will be offering recurring $500,000 investments into the city as well as an annual investment of $200,000 on gambling education programs with both proposals. For the McCormick site, Ballys is offering the city an upfront incentive payment of $50 million, and comes with the same cost and phasing plan as the first.

Rendering of Ballys McCormick Place proposal by Ballys

Similar to the first proposal, a temporary gaming facility would be built near the Tribune Publishing Center while the permanent $1.6 billion complex is being built down south. Ballys would enter a long term lease on the 24-acre site currently controlled by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, who have expressed their dislike of a casino being near the convention center. While the design of this proposal is more in-line with other non-Vegas casinos with long stretches of walls flanked by the highway on one side, it will contain the same program and phasing scheme as the previous bid.

Context rendering of the Hard Rock ONE Central proposal by Hard Rock

Hard Rock One Central Bid

As a partnership between Hard Rock International and Landmark Development, this proposal would be located within the ONE Central mega-development which is poised to cover the rail tracks between McCormick Place and Soldier Field. Boasting the projected transit connectivity of nearly 40 million yearly riders promised by ONE Central, the $1.7 billion project promises to boost the appeal and utilization of the nearby convention center and its existing major hotels. Hard Rock worked with JLL and AECOM to conduct market demand analyses on the site and accordingly designed their ‘anchoring attraction’ to the new district.

Rendering of the hotel tower from the Hard Rock ONE Central proposal by Hard Rock

Opening within six to nine months of awarding the project, Hard Rock proposes multiple locations for their temporary facility including the McCormick Place Lakeside Center, North Hall, South Parking Lot, or other parcels of ONE Central. The swooping hotel tower would hold 500 rooms serving the 3,000-slot and 166-game-table casino, as well as over eight dining options, six bars and lounges, and a 3,500-seat Hard Rock Live entertainment venue. Hard Rock at the moment has not confirmed if they will be proposing any airport gaming.

Rendering of the new entrance of the Rivers restored Lakefront Center proposal by Rivers Casino

Rivers McCormick Place Bid

Led by local gaming legend Neil Bluhm and managed by Rush Street Gaming, the first of the Rivers Casino proposals would be located at the Lakeside Center of McCormick Place. Rivers states in its proposal that it hopes to recapture the gaming revenue being lost to many nearby casinos in Indiana by merging with the existing facilities offered by the convention center and its surrounding hotels. The $1.3 billion bid looks to restore the existing Lakeside Center and 4,200-seat Arie Crown Theater, which have been points of contention for the last few years and seen many plans attempting to demolish them.

Rendering of the Rivers restored Lakefront Center proposal by Rivers Casino

Unlike the previous bids, Rivers is planning to build their permanent gaming floor within the existing structure in under 12 months of breaking ground on the complex, thus removing the need for a temporary facility. Integrating art, design and the surrounding parkland, the proposal plans to build a 480,000-square-foot, 2,600-slot, and 190-table casino with 12 restaurants and four bars. Most notably, Rivers does not plan on building any new hotel rooms and instead depend on the 2,900 rooms available around McCormick place, but retains the ability to build 250 rooms in the future. Rivers at the moment has not confirmed if they will be proposing any airport gaming.

Rendering of the riverfront outdoor spaces of Rivers The 78 proposal by Rivers Casino

Rivers The 78 Bid

Perhaps one of the most ambitious bids also comes from the Rivers group but in collaboration with Related Midwest and their The 78 mega-development. Hoping to cash in on the projected seven million annual visitors to the area, the $2 billion project looks to start construction immediately given the land is cleared and ready for use. It is worth noting the casino would be located on the northwest corner of the development and replaces various originally planned high-rises and riverfront parkland, as well as co-exist with other The 78 projects such at the multi-university backed Discovery Partners Institute.

Rendering of the riverfront outdoor spaces of Rivers The 78 proposal by Rivers Casino

With the most unique temporary location, Rivers will dock a gaming riverboat near the location of the permanent location. Featuring large riverfront outdoor areas and boat docks surrounded by a contemporary jagged style building, the final 450,000-square-foot casino would bring 2,600 slots and 190 table games complemented by a 300-room hotel tower, eight dining options and five bars. Along with a large exhibition hall, the centerpiece of the project will be an over 1,000-foot-tall, Chicago bridges inspired, observation tower boasting multi-story multi-purpose event spaces at the top.

Gateway Towers (center)

Rendering of The 78 by Related Midwest

As all of the bids continue to develop, they will all need to go for public hearings which are planned to begin in December before a final vote could occur. While no formal date has been given for the voting, it could happen as soon as March with construction of the temporary facility of the winning proposal starting soon thereafter.

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8 Comments on "New Renderings And Details Revealed For City Casino Bids"

  1. Chicago does not need a casino and I’d be really disappointed if Related changed their vision for the 78 site.

  2. Without massive upgrades to public transportation these projects all pose to overwhelm surrounding areas with paralyzing traffic jams. Due to highway access it seems that the McCormick sites are best suited to absorb some of this, but additional train/bus lines would still be needed. Perhaps the eyesore parking lot that Friends of the Parks “saved” from the Lucas Museum could be used more than 10 days a year.

  3. Bobby Siemiaszko | November 20, 2021 at 12:45 pm | Reply

    I really wish they would cover the tracks west of the river across from the 78 and build on that space instead of building on the 78. The McCormick seems like a bad idea. One Central might be a great place to jump start that project of covering those tracks. Not a huge fan of any of them, but hopefully whatever is chosen jumpstarts the area for even more entertainment, hospitality, retail, dining, apartments and most importantly bringing a 24/7 nightlife to Chicago and make this just one piece of that. Also, we need to add much better transit if we want to make this possible. This is a huge opportunity for Chicago. Do not blow it.

  4. Neil Bluhm’s proposal is the obvious choice of these options. That would give Chicago an instant iconic “landmark” type of development if they built it to those standards. Chicago hasn’t pushed the envelope architecturally in a very long time but this would give us a modern gem. JGMA did an excellent job here and hopefully the city rewards them and don’t do what is typically done with these contests, which is selecting the most bland, unambitious option. The others are all very typical and nothing you couldn’t get in any city with a casino. Chicago needs to be a leading global city here and pick the most expressive, forward-thinking design.

    • Amen to that. It’s disappointing every time I click through Yimby’s Instagram and see all this wild stuff being built in NYC and Miami. At least most of the stuff going up in Chicago right now isn’t *bad*, but our architecture has been far too tame for too long. Sometimes I think about how totally off-the-wall Marina City must have looked to someone in the 1960s… where is that spirit today?

    • Agreed. That branch of the river is filling up with blue glass econoboxes from the confluence to the proposed twin towers surrounding 311 S Wacker. Given Related’s other projects in the city, I’m hopeful the 78 would have more interesting architecture regardless, but this casino would seal the deal for at least one interesting 1000ft+ structure.

  5. Rivers McCormick is by far the safest bet (pun intended). It would be up and running in 12 months, makes great use of existing structure right on the lake front… and we help the hotels and restaurants supporting the convention center.

  6. Rivers 78 seems like an obvious choice architecturally. On the river and on undeveloped land, not to mention the Roosevelt stop and highway are nearby. Traffic? Yes it would be horrific, but I can’t imagine it’s going to be any better near the existing Tribune building (it’s already a nightmare) and off of LSD, which backs up every 20 minutes. Truthfully traffic on Roosevelt is already pretty awful, so a long-term solution given the 78 will chug along either way would be necessary regardless of this project.

    If we’re going for most practical, then I suppose any of the McCormick options given construction would be at a minimum, but I’m really hoping they go with the bold choice here. Our last architectural landmark feels like many generations ago, and tourists aren’t going to continue coming to see the same thing over and over again. So let’s hope to go big or go home!!

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