Monticello Raceway & Concord Casino Planned $600 Million Catskill Resort
An artist’s sketch shows a view of the proposed casino resort plan for the former Concord site.
Developers say plans are in place and they vow to open the first phase of the casino in 2014.
KIAMESHA LAKE, Thompson, NY — Two companies are planning to develop the largest resort in upstate New York in decades — a $600 million entertainment, housing and gambling complex on the grounds of a once-famous borscht belt hotel.
Developers of the former Concord properties said Tuesday they are on track to begin construction by early next year and open the first phase of a luxury hotel and casino resort in the Catskills by late 2014.
The project includes a proposal to move the Monticello racetrack and slot machine parlor to the site of the old hotel, the Concord, where Milton Berle, Danny Kaye and Buddy Hackett once entertained vacationing New Yorkers. The Monticello racetrack is currently located four miles from the Concord property.
The companies, Entertainment Properties Trust, which owns 1,530 acres there, and Kien Huat, the Malaysian company that controls the racetrack, also want to build a hotel, a conference center, a water park and an upscale shopping mall alongside a refurbished championship golf course at the site, in Sullivan County.
Tim Lies, a project executive for Entertainment Properties, said the company’s vision would be “respectful of the grand tradition of the Catskill resorts.” It includes housing for professionals in the area as well as a new clubhouse for the golf course.
Speaking hours before a public hearing at Thompson Town Hall, executives for Empire Resorts and Entertainment Properties Trust said their ambitious plans to transform 1,538 acres are doable and real.
EPT recently submitted a draft environmental statement and expects to obtain all its approvals later this winter.
“We have done everything we have said we would,” said A. James Tinson, chief executive officer of Hart Howerton, the project’s master planner. As for a groundbreaking date; “It really comes down to the permit schedule and the weather,” Tinson said.
“We’re excited to finally get something here,” Anthony P. Cellini, supervisor of the Town of Thompson, said. “They’ve got the property. They’ve got the money. They’ve got top-notch professionals working with them.”
Monticello Casino & Raceway owner Empire Resorts plans to lease 200 acres from EPT to move most of its facilities from Monticello’s track, about 2.5 miles away, to the Concord site and build a 248-room hotel, a Racino with 2,150 video lottery terminals, a harness track and an events center — a project that would require about $300 million in financing. Empire would have some room to expand in a later phase, perhaps with a larger hotel The state has passed a tax incentive on the land that would pay the developer about two-thirds of the revenues from video gaming machines if it meets investment and employment targets of 1,000 jobs.
Empire CEO Joseph D’Amato said the company has spent about $7 million on the project. D’Amato said financing a $300 million project is “not pie in the sky.”
The project is doable because of the potential VGM revenues and because the casino will be centered in a vast resort with other amenities built by EPT.
Empire could also seek tax incentives through the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency, a move that would help in obtaining the financing.
“We have been out to the capital markets,” D’Amato said. “They are very receptive to this.”
EPT, meanwhile, plans to invest tens of millions in building up the remaining portions of the property as a Catskill’s destination resort; this would begin with an upgrade to the Monster Golf Course and complementary restaurants and entertainment venues, like a multiplex theater and bowling alley, near Empire’s project.
In the shorter term, EPT is also planning a $150 million indoor water park with a hotel. Later phases could include more hotels, restaurants and mixed housing.
Entertainment Properties is a publicly traded company based in Kansas City, Mo., that owns movie theaters and entertainment complexes. Kien Huat is owned by KT Lim, chairman of Genting Berhad, one of the largest gambling and resort companies in the world. Kien Huat controls Empire Resorts, which operates the Monticello racetrack.
EPT Vice President Robert Drumm and Project Executive Tim Lies said that EPT, a multibillion-dollar real estate reinvestment trust, can self-finance its projects. The company is locked into moving forward. EPT and Empire jointly announced on Tuesday that they have a labor peace agreement with the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, and EPT is negotiating a water use agreement with the village of Monticello.
“We have $180 million into this already,” Drumm said.
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