Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another Winery Opens North of Route 13

View Wineries North of Routes 3/149/13 in a larger map

There's the makings of a new wine trail in the region with the opening of a fifth winery in northern Jackson County just south of Elkville.

Lyn-Nita Vineyards opened Nov. 19 at the intersection of U.S. 51 and Coal Road, according to the Southern Business Journal. Anita Eckhardt is the proprietor.

Eckhardt said the winemaking community in Southern Illinois has been helpful and welcoming to her on her new venture.

"All the wineries down here have been just wonderful," she said. "They don't view it as a competition; they actually view it as something good for the business.

"Right now nobody feels like the market is over-saturated just yet," she added. "They feel like it's good to have more wineries here."

Jackson County is better known for the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail which runs south of Carbondale and Murphysboro and has previously decided to limit themselves to south of Route 13 and west of Interstate 57.

Twelve wineries operate on that trail, the state's first. Two more wineries have opened in the last year or so in their territory and may soon qualify for membership - Lincoln Heritage in Union County and Honker Hill in Williamson County.

Monday, December 06, 2010

'Phone Ringing' With Interest in Millennium Development

View Marion STAR Bonds District in a larger map

Sunday's Southern Illinoisan brought the latest status update for the new Millennium Development project slated for Marion's north side.

Many are interested, but nobody's signed on the dotted line yet in terms of the major anchors, though the developer hopes to have one by the end of the month.

"The phone is ringing. We've been in meetings and having conversations with several potential users. Some are performing market studies, doing their own due diligence. We hope to know more before the end of December," [Developer Bruce] Holland said. "Of course, the holiday season is their busiest time of the year, but we've been talking to some on a weekly basis."

Developers need to land at least one of the two major destination users (large retailers with the capability to attract shoppers from far away) as well as the major entertainment user before they can submit a plan for city and state approval.

Holland told the Southern that they have all the land they need at the present, though should the project expand they could acquire additional acreage. Legislation allowing the STAR Bonds District allows the district to expand up to 500 acres. It's currently under 400 acres.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Watch Out Metropolis! Cape Lands A Casino

Cape Girardeau snagged a new $125 million casino today after state gaming officials selected the city as the site of Missouri's 13th casino license, approving a  plan proposed by Isle of Capri. The city beat out two other locations in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.

The move could help the counties on both sides of the Mississippi River in Illinois and Missouri with new jobs and tourism opportunities, but it's expected to come at a cost to Southern Illinois' only existing casino at Metropolis.

Last May another Missouri casino operator touted a study that showed Cape Girardeau as the best location for the state's 13th casino, at least in terms of actually adding to Missouri's take of gambling taxes. The study by Ameristar Casinos showed the Mississippi River town with a potential to generate $87 million in gross revenue to become the state's biggest casino outside Kansas City and St. Louis.

Importantly for Missouri, but bad for Illinois, the study showed a Cape Girardeau casino wouldn't cannibalize any Missouri casino, just Harrah's casino in Metropolis.

Only a small portion -- $10 million -- of the Cape Girardeau revenue would come from another casino, and the report identifies Harrah's in Metropolis, Ill., as the loser.

Ameristar, which already operated casinos in Missouri wanted to limit the competition and not see another competitor come to the St. Louis market. A second study by the state's gaming commission that came out last week basically agreed.

"In all three scenarios, Isle of Capri-Cape Girardeau generated the highest net new casino revenue and gaming taxes, new employment, and, overall Gross Domestic Product," the study found. Casino Celebration was second in all three scenarios.

Both St. Louis and Kansas City are home to several casinos. Cape Girardeau is about 100 miles south of St. Louis. The only other casino within a close drive is in the small town of Caruthersville in the Missouri Bootheel, about 85 miles south of Cape Girardeau.

"All of the applicants have submitted proposals for medium-sized facilities but only Isle of Capri is far enough from existing Missouri casinos to minimize cannibalization," the report found.

Isle of Capri, based in suburban St. Louis, is proposing a $125 million casino along the Mississippi River in Cape Girardeau.

The casino would become one of the largest tourism sites in the Heartland with the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail and the four dozen lodging operators seeing the first benefit. It will also be just 45 miles away from the new Millennium Development project in Marion.

The casino isn't slated to open until late 2012 according to the Southeast Missourian.

The project is expected to include 1,000 slot machines, 28 table games, three restaurants, a lounge and terrace overlooking the Mississippi River and a 750-seat event center at an estimated cost of $125 million.

Isle of Capri will present a preliminary development plan to the city planning commission on Dec. 8.

Marion Lands Miss Illinois Pageant

The Marion Cultural and Civic Center as well as Drury Inn landed the 2011 Miss Illinois pageant next June 28-July 2. The winner goes to compete in the Miss America pageant.

The Miss Illinois Scholarship Association announced the selection on the website MissIllinois.org. The Marion Daily Republican has the story.

The announcement of the move was posted on the Miss Illinois website Friday. The website had formerly announced the pageant would return to the Norris Cultural Arts Center in St. Charles. But that changed after the pageant's director visited Marion earlier this month.

She apparently liked what she saw. Congratulations civic center staff for landing the event.