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Argosi to start construction of luxury hotels

Argosi general manager Gary Johnson led the groundbreaking ceremony for the 250-room hotel at the Riverside casino complex on Thursday.

The $75 million project includes a 1,200-car parking lot to replace a torn smaller garage to make room for a nine-story hotel, with a conference room, fitness center, day spa, piano bar and private gardens for specials.

Argo City's $105 million Mediterranean-themed casino expansion began 18 months ago. It has helped double the size of the gaming floor and increase the river boat's market share by about 8 percent.

"Argosi becomes a true tourist destination," said Johnson, who has the hotel's luxury suites, plasma-screen televisions in all rooms and casino restaurants and banquet facilities.

Argosi's breakthrough comes just 30 days before the opening of an additional 192-room hotel scheduled for Aug. 1, which will add new restaurants and night clubs this year.

The groundbreaking ceremony also left Capri Casino Island, near downtown, as Kansas City's only gambling boat without accommodation.

Riverside Mayor Betty Birch called Argosi a "community partner" and praised the company's $180 million capital investment and said, "That means more job opportunities in our city ... we need those jobs."

Designed by Westwood's Peckham Guyton Alberts & Viets Inc., the hotel is a pure glass tower but stretches over its entire length and features a skyline facade of Italian villas that carries out the Mediterranean village theme of the accommodation.

"We tried to design a head-turning hotel," said Paul Keller, Argosi's vice president of design and construction. The front of almost a dozen fake buildings will stand from the second to fourth floors with the hotel's glass background.

The total contractor for the hotel project is Walton Construction in Kansas City.

The hotel is expected to open in early 2007. By then, Argosi is expected to be part of Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming's portfolio, acquiring Illinois-based Argosi Gaming in a deal worth $2.2 billion. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year.

Consolidated operations will be the country's third-largest gaming company with 13 casinos, racetracks and off-track betting facilities.

Birch said Riverside expects the latest expansion in Argo City and a planned redesign of Interstate 635 exit with views of the property to trigger a retail building boom in the area.

The city's master plan for the area is still a work in progress, but Birch said he was "looking for a big box" to anchor the shopping area west of the casino.

Johnson, meanwhile, said Thursday he hopes to ignite the city's interest in outdoor amphitheaters or other live entertainment venues just north of casinos and just west of city parks.
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