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Casino wows visitors

Riverside facility opens Thursday night

Gregg Hennigan

The Gazette

August 30, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

  RIVERSIDE — The $140 million Riverside Casino & Golf Resort opened its doors for a public tour Tuesday, and visitors were wowed.

  ‘‘It’s fabulous. I’m prepared already,’’ said Norma Hartley, 73, of Lone Tree, pulling out a wad of cash from her pants pocket.

  The casino resort, about 15 miles south of Iowa City, doesn’t open for business until 9 p.m. Thursday.

  When it does, it will have 1,181 slot machines, 30 table games and a 14-table poker room. It also will have a 200-room hotel, a 1,000-seat events center, four restaurants and a spa. An 18-hole golf course will open next summer.

  Special features abound.

  A fountain above the main bar lights up and shoots water in time with music. Small video monitors controlled by the casino are on every slot machine. All hotel rooms have glass-walled showers visible from the room, though a shower curtain is available for privacy.

  Jason Kirk, 31, of Ainsworth, toured the facility with his wife and two children. He said he wasn’t aware of a comparable venue in Iowa.

  ‘‘We’re not too much of gamblers, but I think because we’re close to the area, we could come here when we wanted to get away without the kids and spend $20 and see what happens,’’ Kirk said. CEO Dan Kehl is counting on attracting people like the Kirks. He called his project the first destination resort in the state, one that does not require someone to be a gambler to enjoy.

  ‘‘We think they’ll like what they see,’’ Kehl said.

  Casino officials are projecting 1.3 million visitors and $93 million in revenue its first year.

  But first, construction, which started 13 months ago, needs to be finished.

  ‘‘Wet paint’’ signs remained Tuesday around some pillars, blankets covered bare wood inside elevators and hotel room numbers were written on blue tape next to the doors.

  ‘‘We have some tweaking to do, but it will get done,’’ Kehl said.