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2014 expected to be a ‘busy year’ for Kansas Star Casino

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, March 1, 2014, at 9:19 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, March 2, 2014, at 7:59 a.m.

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Construction work will be heavy at the Kansas Star Casino in 2014 as the Mulvane gambling facility continues to expand.

Ground will be broken in mid-March or mid-April on a 10,000-square-foot meeting and convention space and on an equestrian center. Both are scheduled to be completed almost simultaneously in January 2015, although a handful of equestrian events will be held this year.

The meeting and convention center, which wasn’t included in the original plans, will be built off the east wall of the casino on the Kansas Turnpike side, and be attached to the casino. It will include board rooms, conference rooms, kitchens and receiving docks, Cooper said.

The equestrian center will feature 200 permanent stalls rather than the 624 originally planned, but it will have the flexibility to expand to 500, 600 or 800 stalls, giving it the ability to book an event of any size, said Scott Cooper, general manager.

The equestrian center also will be built on the west side of the casino, toward U.S. 81, instead of the south side, as originally planned. Moving it from the south side, which served as the original entrance when the casino opened in its temporary arena facility, will eliminate fewer parking spaces, Cooper said.

The changes will help the Kansas Star fulfill its overall mission, he said.

Rather than a 624-stall equestrian center, “We felt a better use of our money was to build some meeting and convention space to enhance our ability to be a destination place,” Cooper said.

While all that construction is going on, work also will be under way to double the number of rooms at the casino’s hotel, the Hampton Inn and Suites, to 300 by the middle of the summer, Cooper said. That expansion was part of the original plan.

“It’s going to be another busy year. We’ll have to balance operating the facility and adding to the facility,” he said.

Efforts also are under way to book acts at the Kansas Star Arena, which opened last year.

“The arena will be more active this year than it was last year,” Cooper said.

The arena has 3,400 fixed seats, with the capacity for 5,000 to 6,000 seats in concert mode. Only the concert by the rock band Journey sold out at the higher seating capacity last year. The casino wants more acts that fill 5,000 seats, Cooper said.

The Kansas Star has operated for a full year in its permanent casino. January revenue was $14.45 million, down about $1.9 million from last January, according to the latest figures from the Kansas Lottery.

“It’s obviously leveled off, but in January a year ago we were in the first month in the new building, and this year’s January was more weather-impacted than last year,” Cooper said.

Overall, the casino continues to outperform the two other state-owned casinos. It has generated $396.4 million in gambling revenue since opening in December 2011, topping the $255.6 million at the Hollywood Casino in Kansas City, which opened a month and a half after the Kansas Star. The smaller Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City has earned $170.6 million since opening in December 2009.

Gaming revenue includes the cash played on the casino’s slot machines and gaming tables after winnings have been paid.

Local governments continue to benefit from the Kansas Star. Sumner and Sedgwick counties and the city of Mulvane have each received nearly $4 million from the casino’s gaming revenue since it opened. The state of Kansas has received $87.5 million, and $7.9 million has gone to a state fund for problem gambling and other addictions.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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