Station Square would be the best casino choice
May 9, 2006
Depending on where you live in South Pittsburgh the debate about which casino proposal is either intense or absent.
Those with an opinion are passionate about their choice; usually split between whether it would be better to locate the slot machine parlor at Station Square or near the current Mellon Arena. Little of the debate has centered on the PITG Gaming proposal to locate a casino between the Carnegie Science Center and the West End Bridge.
Representatives from all three gaming applicants have made presentations to the South Side Planning Forum, outlining their development plans. Each of the applicants: Forest City Enterprises and Harrah's Entertainment with Harrah's Station Square Casino; Nationwide Realty Services and the Pittsburgh Penguins with the Isle of Capri Casino; and, PITG Gaming with Don Barton's Majestic Star Casino, present a compelling and impressive argument why they should be granted the only slots license in Pittsburgh.
The Isle of Capri has promised a new arena and money to redevelop the Hill District if granted the license. Forest City has proposed a $500 million development of shops and condos along with $25 million to Pittsburgh History & Landmarks and an additional $1 million per year for community development. PITG Gaming has promised money to redevelop the Hill District and develop the riverfront in front of the casino.
All are proposing spectacular gaming facilities complete with multi-use auditoriums, restaurants, bars and of course 3,000 slot machines. The number of slot machines in the casino could eventually grow to 5,000.
Concerns voiced in South Pittsburgh over the casinos have been centered around what restrictions are in place to limit ancillary businesses (pawn shops, gun dealers, etc.) and how the additional traffic will affect the already congested South Side.
Based strictly on those criteria, the Barton proposal on the North Side could be the best proposal. It is the furthest from South Pittsburgh and will have limited impact on traffic and ancillary businesses. Although East Carson Street could still be considered an alternate route for many to get to the North Side casino.
The Isle of Capri proposal, which has been drawing wide public support for its gift of a new arena, could have a far greater impact on the South Side than anticipated. Although located virtually the exact distance from “downtown” E. Carson Street (1.1 miles to the corner of 10th and East Carson streets according to Google Maps), the Isle of Capri didn't include what impact traffic generated by their casino will have on the South Side.
Anyone who has gone to a Penguins game from the South Side knows that game traffic has an impact on the neighborhood's streets and bridges. And with the bars and restaurants planned for the casino, Penguin fans will not have to leave the complex to have dinner, celebrate a win or watch an away game.
With Governor Rendell's Plan B for building a new multi-purpose area, the Isle of Capri's proposal seems less attractive compared with Forest City Enterprises'.
The Forest City proposal calls for a $1 billion multi-faceted investment in the city that will incorporate not only a gaming venue, but 1,200 upscale condos along with retail development. Their proposal also calls for limited bars and restaurants inside the casino, preferring to make use of existing facilities at Station Square.
As part of their proposal, Forest City plans to make a $25 million donation to Pittsburgh History & Landmarks and establish a $1 million per year fund to further community projects throughout the city. Forest City has also expressed a willingness to work with local community groups including the South Side Local Development Company and the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation.
If each of the companies' projections can be believed, the Station Square development — already the biggest tourist attraction in the city — will draw more gamblers, employ more people and generate more tax revenue. While a new multi-purpose arena could be used 100 or more days a year, Station Square already draws thousands of people virtually every day of the year.
Traffic woes will come to the South Side with either the Isle of Capri or Harrah's at Station Square, but Forest City's proposal holds the most promise for the City of Pittsburgh and allows South Pittsburghers a voice in the future.