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May 04, 2005

Hi ho, off to the bridge we go?

Maybe the Isle of Capri people should steal a page from the Jumer's playbook and head their Davenport boat on down to the I-280 bridge.

That option's been mentioned only in dismissal. Just across the river, though, abandoning downtown for the wonders of the interstate is seen as the salvation of the Casino Rock Island. Everybody agrees it's the thing to do.

Illinois-side legislators are busily trying --again -- to amend the Illinois gaming act to permit the move. Rock Island's mayor is lobbying hard for the change. So are other civic leaders. No protest is heard from the merchants of The District, the complex of bars, nightclubs and restaurants just a half-block from the casino.

Rock Island clearly has abandoned the notion that there's any significant "synergy" between a casino on the river and shore merchants and attractions. If that snyergy exists in the world, it should have manifested itself in Rock Island, with its great array of entertainment venues within hand-holding distance of the boat. . But when CRI first started talking about moving, back in 2000, The District greeted the announcement with a yawn.

Typical was the response of Dave Smith, manager of the Blue Cat Brew Pub, the boat's closest neighbor. Whatever business he got from the boat, he said, was employees who stopped by going to or from work. He wasn't mourning. He was more interested in talking about to do with the space when the boat goes. Condos was his idea.

But the ever elusive synergy is offered as a principal justification for keeping the Isle of Capri's Rhythm City boat on Davenport's downtown riverfront. Apparently the fact that the synergy hasn't appeared in the 15 years a boat's been parked there doesn't disturb the true believers.

They were out in force at Davenport's waterfront workshops Monday and Tuesday, and apparently a lot of people bought the notion that somewhere downtown is the only choice for the locating the boat and its proposed hotel.

When options for locating the boat were discussed, the one about the I-280 bridge area was mentioned, declared unrealistic and abandoned even faster than the one about building a pond next to the Black Hawk Hotel, and building a boat in it.

Maybe, though, as several people suggested at the workshops, a deeper look would be a good idea. Can't hurt. At the moment IOC and Davenport are doing a Wild West thing, standing face to face with guns aimed.

If IOC's going to become the `first tier' casino it wants to be, the city's cooperation is required.

If the city's going to make the further downtown progress it wants, it needs the cooperation of IOC, and it's 90-year lease on 7 acres of riverfront. (Incidentally, let's make sure whoever negotiated THAT lease in 2000 IS NOT talking for the city in current discussions.)

Course the "city" doesn't quite know what it wants. A chunk of the ordinary folks segment of the "city" did make it clear this week they think the boat is a major eyesore and that something ought to be done. Lots of them didn't see a 10-story hotel as part of the solution.

They're no doubt keeping an eye on the city council part of the "city" and looking ahead to election day.

As the standoff continues, maybe the Jumer's strategy will get a deeper look ... new boat, nice new hotel, plenty of parking, just off an interstate exchange, no place to distract the gamblers from gambling. Hmmm.

Then there are Rock Island's city fathers happily planning the next evolution of their riverfront. Hmmmm.

John Beydler is news editor at Quad-Cities Online. email johnbeyd@qconline.com

Posted by jcb at May 4, 2005 01:54 PM


With all due respect I really don't think you can compare the Rock Island situation to Davenport. Rock Island has very cleverly made a name for their downtown "the district" well known for partying. What is the recognizable name for Davenport's downtown? The place where everyone wants to go, huh?
If you look back in the years before the boat in Davenport the downtown area was quickly becoming a ghostown. Do you honestly believe all the development now going on would be there without the boat? The boats in Iowa contribute far nore dollars to their respective communities than the Rock Island boat. There is no comparison! One more point, the boat is not going to move to one of the other venues you recommend. It's either stay as they are now, an eyesore as many of the people have said, or improve the area. What do the people want?

Posted by: Dan at May 5, 2005 06:57 AM

Dan, you give too much credit to influence of the boat. All the development is part of River Renaissance, started in 2000 'cause downtown was still ghostly. Of $113 mil cost state, county, city kicking in nearly half. $60 mil of so in private investment. Riverboat money helped, but less than many other private companies.
You may be right about ultimate choice tho --stay with current mess or try to make it better by tucking it, with hotel, into smaller space at end.

Posted by: Observer at May 5, 2005 11:19 AM