The development group, Highview Development Group, presented their plan to build a $225 million casino and hotel to the Des Moines Airport Authority board on Tuesday. The group said the project would effectively help cover a funding shortfall for the airport’s planned new terminal. The airport board has tabled discussion of the proposal until their February meeting.
The proposed complex will include a 350-room hotel connected to the airport via a skywalk. Other winning features are a fountain, rock garden, restaurant and wedding and banquet facilities.
Highview Development Group is led by Reggie Sinha, head of a business and development consultant firm, and includes Wild Rose Entertainment, a company founded by Des Moines entrepreneur Gary Kirke, which would operate the casino.
In a statement released Wednesday, Wild Rose said:
“It should be noted that Wild Rose is not the first nor the only casino organization approached by [Sinha] and his Highview consortium. The company supports and is part of his efforts to put forth a creative solution to generate a long-term, continuous funding stream for the airport’s much needed improvements.”
Terminal Funding Projects
Two former major Des Moines construction projects valued at $16 million, the FedEx building and the South Cargo Apron project, took four years to complete and were the first of two partnerships in the new terminal vision.
Kerty Levy, Des Moines Airport Authority Board Chair, said this of the recently completed projects and their valuable connection to the new terminal vision:
“This project is part of our vision to build a new terminal. A vision that will support our local economy and enable us to grow cargo operations and air service to continue connecting Iowans to anywhere.”
The primary purpose of the $6.7 million FedEx facility was to open land on the south side of the terminal to relocate Signature Flight Support and Des Moines Flying Service to where FedEx currently sits, clearing the way for a new terminal north of the existing site.
The total South Cargo Apron project cost $9.16 million, including the cost of roadways and new pavement.
Current Casinos in the State
As of now, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona serves as the sole legal gambling house in metropolitan Des Moines since it opened as a horse track in 1989. In 1995, it added slot machines and in 2004, added table gambling.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission twice rejected investors’ proposals for a casino in Cedar Rapids — in 2014 and 2017 — citing a “saturated market” and potential “cannibalization” of income for other casinos in the state.
Proposed Opening Date
The new, 18-gate terminal, a $500 million project, is planned to have an opening in 2028. Officials have been seeking to cover the project’s funding shortfall, a whopping $194 million, from various sources in order to complete this ambitious project.
The proposed casino-hotel could be the winning ticket to securing the additional funding needed to get the new terminal off the ground. According to the Highway Development Group’s proposal, the casino would generate $85 million per year and create 1,000 jobs.
Kayla Kovarna, an airport spokeswoman, said:
“It’s our duty to consider all proposals that might benefit the airport and greater Des Moines.”