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Hara's Hotel Project to Begin Again

Harra's Entertainment said construction of a $62 million hotel and entertainment center has been approved by the Illinois Gaming Commission, so it will resume within a month and be completed by next spring.

The five-member board met Wednesday in Chicago and voted unanimously in favor of developing a seven-story, 258-room building to complement Hara's Metropolis casino. The hotel will house a 12,000-square-foot multipurpose center with 1,200 concert seats and up to 800 banquet seats. A 75-seat restaurant and bar space will also be part of the complex.

"We are extremely pleased that the gaming board has decided to take swift action to approve our project," said Mike Cider, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Casino.

The approval had been delayed since September due to a lack of board quorum. Hara halted construction in January, and most of the foundation work was completed.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed three new board members two weeks ago. The new board approved the project with few questions and little discussion, Metropolis Mayor Beth Klanahan said. She and Cider talked about the importance of the hotel project during the meeting. It was the third presentation by the Gaming Commission since Harrer announced the project. They also testified before the Illinois State Council Gaming Commission last month about the importance of resuming the project.

"The city has bought $1.3 million in land to develop an RV park and a marina," she said. "This is definitely interesting for the development because hopefully the city and the hotel complex will complement each other."

Klanahan also told the new board that the city is investing just over $4 million for a new electric substation to serve the area.

The hotel is expected to increase the annual number of gaming tourists from 1.3 million to 1.6 million and generate $1.5 million more annually for Metropolis and $11.7 million more in tax revenue for Illinois. It will require about 250 construction workers, followed by 100 hotel employees.

Harrah's is already one of the largest employers in the region, with a payroll of 930. The most recent capital increase was the opening of a $65 million entertainment pavilion and water casino in 2001.

Marketing director Brian Seiner said Morsey Inc. of Calvert City, Kentucky, is ready to resume building the hotel as soon as a new general contractor is named. Hara and Smoot Construction, a former state contractor in Indianapolis, split in January over disagreements over claims.

"It was a great project for us because it allowed people to keep working," Seiner said. "We always thought that hotels would help the economy. They will come alive in the not-too-distant future."
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