of a long wait
break ground on Blue Sky Casino
Lick casino supporters celebrate
with town-wide party
FRENCH LICK, Ind. (September 2005) - It took many years of hard work,
lobbying and campaigning, but French Lick finally got its casino.
by Don Ward
Street, center with grandson,
Clayton Snider, takes part in the Aug. 9
groundbreaking in French Lick, Ind.
Geneva Street, a local hairdresser and the leader of the
Orange Shirts, rallied her troops together one more time
Aug. 9, only this time to celebrate the groundbreaking of Blue Sky Casino
on what was formerly part of the French Lick Springs Golf Course.
Soon, the fairways will become an enormous construction site as the
casino and conference center start taking shape in the months ahead.
The $400 million project, approved June 23 by the Indiana Gaming Commission,
will be the states last of 11 casinos currently licensed under
Indiana state law. The casino will sit in the heart of the tiny town
of French Lick, just 75 miles west of Madison, Ind.
Im so proud of everyone; weve worked hard for this
and its great to finally see it happen, said Street, 74,
as she clung to her grandson, Clayton Snider, 2, and surrounded by family
members, some of whom had driven across the state to be with her on
this historic day.
Blue Sky Casino is being created by a partnership of three groups Lauth
Group Inc., an Indianapolis-based real estate firm; Cook Group Inc.,
a medical device manufacturer in Bloomington owned by West Baden Springs
philanthropists Bill and Gayle Cook; and Majestic Star Casino, which
also operates the casino in Gary, Ind. Benchmark Hospitality International,
headquartered in Houston, now manages the French Lick Springs Resort.
Despite all the work today, we are just getting started,
said Lauth Group CEO Bob Lauth.
by Don Ward
is the Lauth Groups rendering
of the future Blue Sky casino now
under construction in French Lick.
State Rep. Jerry Denbo and former State Rep. Markt Lytle,
who both promoted the casino, attended the groundbreaking, along with
many dignitaries. After the ribbon cutting and a flurry of picture-taking,
those who attended were treated with free food and drinks on the shady
lawn in front of the French Lick Springs Resort.
This is the culmination of the Orange County communitys
efforts to restore these two historic hotels and build this casino,
said Steve Ferguson, chairman of Bloomington, Indiana-based Cook Group,
which formed Orange County Holdings, one of the Blue Sky partners.
When finished, the new casino complex will boast an 80,000-square-foot
nautically themed casino, an event and conference center, parking garage,
entertainment lounge, sports bar, fine dining restaurant and casual
bistro. It will also house 680 hotel rooms and suites between the two
existing and renovated resorts French Lick Springs Resort
and the West Baden Springs Resort, plus an array of resort amenities,
including spas, pools and a newly built golf course.
Casino revenues also have been earmarked to fund complete restorations
of the aging but historic French Lick Springs Resort and the nearby
famed domed hotel at West Baden Springs.
Whats more, it is expected to rejuvenate a financially poor area
that at one time in years past billed itself as a playground for the
rich and famous. The casino project is estimated to create about 1,400
jobs and provide an estimated $32 million in annual salaries and benefits
between the two resorts. The casino itself will generate an estimated
$32.6 million in annual admission and gaming tax revenue, as well as
$3.2 million annually in local incentives.
Completion of the casino, parking garage, event center, golf courses
and the first 200 rooms at French Lick Springs Resort and related amenities
is slated for December 2006. In the projects second phase, Blue
Sky expects to finish restoring the 240 rooms at West Baden Springs
Resort by July 2007. The final 240 rooms at French Lick Springs Resort
will be finished by December 2007.
Community members were invited to participate in the ceremony and asked
to bring old letters, souvenirs and other memorabilia from the resorts
history. The items will be put in a booklet, which Blue Sky officials
hope to complete for the grand opening by the end of next year.
Back to September 2005