Mulvane is getting a lot more than a casino, say local officials and real estate agents.
The Kansas Turnpike’s Mulvane interchange will see plenty of new businesses, although it’s too early to say exactly when and how much, they say.
Peninsula Gaming opened Kansas Star Casino last week in its temporary location, the future equestrian events arena. After the company moves its games into the permanent casino building in early 2013 and then opens the events arena for horse shows and other events, it will also open a 150- room hotel, a buffet and high-end restaurant. By 2015, it will double the size of the hotel, add other amenities and outdoor event facilities.
The casino is working hard to keep visitors inside to spend their money. But there remains plenty of opportunities outside the casino: gas stations, a truck stop, restaurants, lower-priced hotels, movie theaters, even shops and stores.
Local officials see it as a potent entertainment destination pulling from not just the 2 to 3 million visitors a year expected at the casino, but also the thousands of travelers a day on the Kansas Turnpike and the more than 50,000 residents who live within 10 miles.
The audience is more than gamblers headed to and from the casino. It’s families killing time during horse shows; it’s commuters looking for gas; and it’s nearby farmers looking for a quick lunch.
But the casino is what gives Exit 33 the chance to be more than another rest stop.
Janis Hellard, Sumner County’s economic development director, envisions tourism-related businesses, such as a high-end boutique or even a destination retailer like Bass Pro or a themed restaurant like Hard Rock Cafe. There’s also a place for stores serving residents, such as a drug store or a pizza parlor.
“Of course the casino wants you to spend money there,” she said. “That’s what they’re in the business of doing, but we see plenty of other opportunities.”
Local agencies stand ready to assist such businesses in getting approvals and needed utilities. They will help with marketing. They may even provide financial incentives, Hellar said.
Dolan Pelley, an agent who works out of J.P Weigand’s Derby office, is representing the owner of 160 acres across the street to the north of the casino.
The owner is a farmer who makes his living farming the land and, Pelley said, isn’t in any hurry to sell. He insisted that Pelley list the land at $20 million, or $125,000 an acre, for land that lacks zoning, water or sewer lines, although it could get those relatively easily.
Even so, Pelley said, he has had a number of inquiries. He expects those inquiries to get more serious.
“It’s a little premature,” Pelley said. “We’ll have to wait until the casino is open and the equestrian center is open, in my opinion.”
Rod Stewart is marketing 65 acres east of the turnpike for Wichita investor Colby Sandlian. The land is already in the city of Mulvane and zoned properly.
He said he is offering the acreage fronting the highway for $2.75 per square foot and the land farther back from the road at 50 cents per square foot.
“At this point, it’s very much a wait and see,” Stewart said.
A casino has become a key piece in the economic development efforts of Dodge City.
The city’s Boot Hill Casino and Resort opened its first phase in December 2009 with 584 slot machines and 16 table games. An arena and conference center, built with special tax funds, opened nearby in early 2011, and a Hampton Inn & Suites is now going up.
The city is applying to the state to use STAR bonds to make additional improvements around the casino, but also to renovate the downtown and the Boot Hill Museum to reinforce the city’s western heritage, said City Manager Ken Strobel.
The hope is to attract more commercial development to the west side, such as big-box stores. Right now, he said, many residents travel Hutchinson or Wichita to shop. More retail would keep them home and bring in more traffic from outside the area.
The casino and its anticipated nearly 1 million annual visitors certainly helps city leaders make a persuasive argument to retailers, he said.
The tourism-related western heritage renovations will reinforce the casino, and vice versa, by giving visitors more options, Strobel said.
“Rather than have them go to Boot Hill and look around for an afternoon and move on, we’d like them to stick around for a few days,” he said.