Baltimore casino developers show plans for site

Outside, Baltimore's proposed casino would have an industrial look inspired by old warehouses in the surrounding area and a shop-lined pedestrian zone reminiscent of the Eutaw Street promenade at Oriole Park.

Inside, it would have "neighborhoods" filled with slot machines; a 400-seat buffet-style restaurant that would turn into a nightclub in the evening; a 120-seat "chop house" and a 100-seat main bar. Designed to hold up to 5,000 people at a time, it would be open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m, seven days a week.

The slots facility would provide the full-time equivalent of 926 jobs with an average salary of $41,000, for an annual payroll of nearly $38 million. Construction would create 2,332 more temporary jobs valued at $122.5 million in wages and benefits.

All of this activity is expected to generate $391 million a year in gaming taxes for the state, revenues of $17.7 million to Baltimore, $3.3 million in casino property taxes, $2.6 million in hotel taxes and $4.6 million in real property taxes.

That's the developer's vision for "Celebration Casino," the proposed name of a two-story, $212.5 million, 3,750-machine slots facility planned to open by early 2011 on an 11-acre parcel off Russell Street, just south of M&T Bank Stadium.

Representatives for the Baltimore City Entertainment Group, the team seeking permission to build the project, unveiled their plans yesterday during a meeting of the Video Lottery Facility Location Commission, a panel charged with deciding whether to approve the license application.

In outlining their project, BCEG team members said it would transform an old industrial district into Baltimore's newest waterfront hot spot. "This will truly be Baltimore's place to play," said Michael Moldenhauer, president of BCEG.

The state commission, headed by Greater Baltimore Committee Executive Director Donald Fry, toured the construction site and held a public hearing Wednesday as part of a series of hearings on casino projects planned around the state. It previously has visited sites in Worcester and Cecil counties.

BCEG is the only team that applied to build a casino in Baltimore. It initially applied to build a facility with 500 slot machines but indicated it would want to increase that number over five years.

The hearing came less than a month after developers disclosed that they now want to build the casino on the old Maryland Chemical Co. property off Russell Street, rather than on a smaller parcel on Stockholm Street. With the larger site, they said they would be prepared to open the casino with 3,750 slot machines. They also said they would be prepared to amend their application to include more machines - and pay the state $19.5 million more in application fees, for a total of $22.5 million - by the end of September.

The commission took no action Wednesday. Fry said the panel is working to decide whether to approve the application by year's end.

During an hourlong presentation, BCEG representatives also said:

•Celebration Casino would be designed to celebrate Baltimore, from the food served to the graphics on buses that shuttle patrons to and from downtown hotels.

•Besides a 200,000-square-foot casino, BCEG intends to construct a five-story, 2,500-space garage east of the casino. The garage would be also available for Ravens home games.

•For drivers, the main access to the casino and its garage from Russell Street would be from a widened Bayard Street, with possible secondary drive-in access from Worcester Street. The main pedestrian entrance to the casino would be from Warner Street, which would be closed to traffic.

•Local development team members include Kevin Johnson of Commercial Interiors in Hanover, construction; STV, engineers; James Britton, food and beverage service; and Sandy Hillman Communications, media relations.