Doors to open today at River City Casino

Staff report

Pinnacle Entertainment’s River City Casino is scheduled to open its doors at 2 p.m. today — Thursday, March 4.

The Missouri Gaming Commission voted unanimously last week to license the facility at 777 River City Casino Blvd.

River City is the seventh gaming facility in the St. Louis area. It’s also the 13th casino in Missouri, the maximum allowed by a state law approved by voters in 2008.

Therefore, any future casino project cannot proceed until one of the 13 licenses becomes available.

River City is a 250,000 square-foot facility that features a 90,000-square-foot gaming floor with more than 2,000 slot machines and roughly 55 table games.

The casino also features a variety of dining options, including the award-winning Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, a buffet with seating for more than 350, a tavern; a contemporary café and a classic burger joint.

During a presentation to the Gaming Commission last week, Pinnacle officials said the first phase of the River City project is expected to come in on-budget at $375 million. A second phase, which includes a possible hotel and retail center, is budgeted at $75 million but is contingent on the success of the casino, officials said.

On the revenue side, Pinnacle officials estimate River City will generate roughly $172 million in its first year of operation.

St. Louis County officials, meanwhile, are betting on roughly $6.8 million in new revenue from the facility this year, according to the county’s 2010 budget, and previously have projected annual revenue of $12 million to $13 million once River City is fully operational.

Pinnacle, which also owns and operates Lumière Place Casino and Hotels in downtown St. Louis, will pay the county $4 million per year in rent for the River City complex. For the first five years, $3 million of that annual payment will help fund economic development projects in Lemay, St. Louis County Economic Council President Denny Coleman told commissioners last week.

The River City project has generated about 600 union construction jobs and is expected to create roughly 1,200 permanent jobs.

The facility was built on roughly 56 acres at the former National Lead and National Imagery and Mapping Agency sites.

Pinnacle, which is leasing the site from the county Port Authority, spent more than $18 million for environmental remediation of the former National Lead site.

The gaming company also spent more than $23.8 million to construct River City Casino Boulevard, which opened in November. The 1.3-mile road provides a new east-west link between the Interstate 55 and South Broadway corridors.

Pinnacle had hoped to rename a stretch of Carondelet Boulevard and Weber Road from Waddell Avenue to Lemay Ferry Road “River City Casino Boulevard.”

However, the proposal drew criticism from several residents who live on those roads. They complained to the County Council that the name change would be an inconvenience and objected to the use of the word “casino” in the new street name.

The original bill to rename the roads, introduced by 6th District Councilman Steve Stenger, D-south county, tentatively was approved two weeks ago on a 4-3 vote.

First District Councilman Hazel Erby, D-University City; 3rd District Councilman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country; and 7th District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, were opposed.

However, Stenger said last week that he had reached a compromise with the residents and Pinnacle. He proposed an amendment to his original bill that dropped “casino” from the new street name, leaving “Riv-er City Boulevard.”

Councilmen unanimously adopted the amended language and granted the bill final approval Feb. 23.