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Officials say Schoolfield site has enough space for casino

Officials say Schoolfield site has enough space for casino

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The Schoolfield site along West Main Street has plenty of room for a casino resort, according to officials.

"The Schoolfield development site is more than 77 acres and provides ample room and space to develop the Caesars Virginia resort with a full complement of amenities," said David Rittvo, vice president of development for Caesars Entertainment in Paradise, Nevada.

The company's preliminary site plan prepared during the RFP process (the city's request for proposals for a casino) showed that the site would be able to accommodate not only the casino, but the hotel, meeting and conference space, 2,500-seat live entertainment venue and plenty of parking for employees and guests, Rittvo said. 

But the company is not sure where the casino would be located on the site. Caesars officials will know where they would build it after city voters decide on Nov. 3 whether to approve the casino. 

"We plan to initiate the formal design process soon after the referendum passes to finalize the location of the casino on the development site," Rittvo said. 

Caesars officials expect the finalized plans to reflect the design shown in their rendering of the casino resort.

Danville Economic Development Director Corrie Teague Bobe estimates that the project will take up at least half of the site. 

"We can assume that it will utilize 40 to 50 acres of the site and allow room for future growth," Bobe said.

City Manager Ken Larking said he had no doubt that the site would be able to contain the resort. 

"It accommodated hundreds of thousands of square feet of Dan River Mills building space and parking for decades," Larking said.

The old finishing building, which is about 617,000 square feet, takes up a relatively small portion of the property. The Schoolfield site is owned by the Danville Industrial Development Authority, the city's land-buying arm. 

Caesars has pledged to purchase the property from the IDA for $5 million if voters approve the casino in November. 

In addition, Caesars has committed to seek citizen feedback on their master planning, Larking said.

The site will be rehabilitated where needed to enable development of the casino resort, Rittvo said. 

"This will include clearing some of the low-lying structures, including the bases of the various buildings that have already been demolished, the tunnel infrastructure, train tracks and vegetation," Rittvo said. 

The company is studying all the buildings and structures at the site to determine their potential use in the development, he said.

"Our initial design was inspired by the previous industrial uses of the building and incorporated the red bricks, steel and glass," Rittvo said. "We anticipate that the resort will emphasize the historical look and feel of the area while providing a state-of-the-art resort and gaming experience for our guests."

Larking pointed out that the company is aware of the site's historical importance. 

"They will take commercially reasonable steps to preserve the historic structures," Larking said, referring to the historic finishing plant and three smokestacks visible from West Main Street in Schoolfield.  

As for buying up surrounding business or residential properties for the casino project, Caesars has no plans to do so, Rittvo said. 

If residents vote "yes" in November, Caesars would build a $400 million casino project including multiple restaurants and bars, a hotel with 300 four-star guest rooms, a 35,000-square-foot conference center, a 2,500-seat live-entertainment venue, a pool and a spa.

It would bring 1,300 jobs as well as 900 construction jobs while being built.

The resort is expected to open in 2023.

If a casino is approved by voters, Caesars would — by the end of 2020 — pay $5 million to buy the Schoolfield site where the casino would be built, and pay $15 million to the city within 30 days of the referendum.

Based on estimates by Caesars, the development will generate — by the third year of operation — $22 million in state-collected gaming tax revenue remitted to the city, $12 million in annual supplemental payments to Danville, and $4.2 million in meals, sales, lodging, and property taxes.

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