Churchill Downs Inc. (Nasdaq: CHDN) is moving forward with its plans for a casino on the east side of Terre Haute. Executives presented to the Indiana Gaming Commission on Tuesday after proposing to relocate the Queen of Terre Haute casino closer to I-70.
General Counsel Dennis Mullen said commission staff reviewed statutes and regulations and found the commission did not need to formally approve the location change. However, commission staff asked Churchill Downs to offer an update due to the importance of the change.
Jason Sauer, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, said Churchill Downs hopes to break ground as early as late May. Sauer said Churchill Downs is excited about the east-side property, citing the size, accessibility, and public support of this location.
SIZE OF EAST-SIDE LOCATION
The 50-acre site is double the size of the initial property, which offers opportunities for more growth. It’s also larger than the other applicants initially proposed. Sauer said Churchill Downs chose to acquire 25 acres from the original Premier Gaming plan, as well as an adjacent 25 acres. Churchill Downs entered two definitive contracts for those properties – the first on February 14, and the second on March 7.
The company received rezoning approval for the site last week.
ACCESSIBILITY OF EAST-SIDE LOCATION
Churchill Downs says the east-side location is near the hub of Vigo County development. The location is in a thriving commercial area. Executives say the broader area around the revised site off Exit 11 has been planned to accommodate further development. Their traffic impact analysis indicates all intersections maintain acceptable levels of service.
PUBLIC SUPPORT OF EAST-SIDE LOCATION
Executives with Churchill Downs say elected officials, citizens, and other stakeholders urged them to build on the east end. They say they listened and made the proposal to move based on community feedback
WHAT IS STILL AHEAD
Sauer says the company is ready to deliver on a long-awaited project, “Suffice to say, we are extremely excited about entering the Indiana gaming market, but not just entering the market – it’s how we are doing it. We are extremely excited about this project. It’s been quite a while for the people of Vigo County for this casino to get off the ground.”
In order to make the project a reality, Churchill Downs is in the process of completing several steps.
- Create a new subdivision plat that combines the two properties into one new parcel
- Rezone the property from its current agricultural use to a commercial use
- Obtain a variance to exceed 125’ in height – which is required on any site in Terre Haute
- Receive approval from the FAA given the proximity to the airport
Groundbreaking could happen as early as late May if the remaining approvals are taken care of on the expected timeline.
- March 17 Terre Haute Board of Zoning Appeals Height Variance Approval Meeting
- April 6 Vigo County Area Plan approves Subdivision Plat
- April 9 – May 9 FAA Approval
- Target closing on the property in April or May after all land-use approvals have been obtained, including the FAA permit
Churchill Downs is projecting a 14-month construction window. However, officials are monitoring supply issues – which could delay the project and raise costs. Ryan Jordan, Senior Vice President of Real Estate Development, told the Indiana Gaming Commission that the original plan called for a $240 million project, but based on other projects, they’ve updated that range to up to $260 million.
There are no definitive dates yet for construction because the project hasn’t officially gone out for bidding.