Return to Nicholas Johnson's Main Web Site

Return to Nicholas Johnson's Iowa Rain Forest ("Earthpark") Web Site

Return to Nicholas Johnson's Blog, FromDC2Iowa

Residents get casino sneak preview

Riverside Casino & Golf Resort opens at 9 p.m. Thursday

Rachel Gallegos

Iowa City Press-Citizen

August 30, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, 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 Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

The Riverside Casino & Golf Resort opens Thursday, but some area residents got a sneak peek Tuesday.

Shortly after 4 p.m., residents started filing into the building through the main entrance.

There was no gambling allowed Tuesday, but people could take self-guided tours through the building. Resort staff were positioned every few feet to greet guests and explain different features of the building.

Guests walked past the hotel front desk and the four restaurants. They were able to peek into one of the hotel rooms and look in the windows of the clothing boutique, where the carpet was put in Monday night. And they were directed, with yellow caution tape on both sides, through the casino -- past the center feature bar and lighted fountain that stretches up to the ceiling, up to the Show Lounge stage and back down toward the main entrance.

Some areas, including the spa and pool, still are under construction, but casino chief executive officer Dan Kehl said there will be a push in the final hours to complete things by the weekend.

Construction started 13 months ago on the $140 million project 14 miles south of Iowa City. The casino opens to the public at 9 p.m. Thursday after a 5 p.m. grand opening celebration and tour for VIPs and investors.

"We're so excited about it," said Donna Zender, who will run the spa.

Zender said crews are doing the "final touches" and expect the spa to open Thursday or Friday.

Guests also checked out the first floor hotel rooms. In the rooms, the shower wall facing the rest of the room is clear glass. Those who do not wish to be seen while showering can pull a curtain around the outside of the glass to block guests in the rest of the room from watching.

Claude and Karen Heyes came down to see the facility out of curiosity, they said. They described the hotel rooms as "very interesting."

"If I was younger. If we were younger," Claude Heyes said about the shower. "You better not be too modest in there."

Kehl said the hotel is booked for Thursday night and is filled with family, friends and VIPs. Space still is available for the rest of the weekend, he said.

The only area of the resort not opening this weekend is the 18-hole golf course designed by Rees Jones. It should be finished by June 2007.

"I expected it to be nice and it is," Kathleen Salemink of West Branch said.

She and her husband, Willard, said they may come back to the resort to eat.

"We'll see if they've got food that's any good," Willard Salemink said. "We don't gamble, so that's out. We got better things to do with our money than give it away."