Rock Island City Leaders Say Interstate Casino Works

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Davenport city leaders may only need to look directly across the Mississippi River to see how Rock Island's interstate casino is working for them.

On Wednesday, January 30th, 2013, Davenport city council voted unanimously to begin negotiations with Ingenus Management, a Minnesota-based company that wants to build a casino and hotel in the southeast section of the Interstate 280/Interstate 80 corridor in northwest Davenport.

With not a lot of development in that area, some are wondering if the interstate is the best spot for a casino.

But Rock Island city leaders - new and old - say it is working for them.

It was December 1st, 2008 when Jumer's went from Rock Island's riverside to the side of the interstate.

"For us, it almost became a 'no-brainer' that it made sense for them to move to another location," said Former Mayor Mark Schwiebert during an interview with WQAD on Thursday, January 31st, 2013.

Schwiebert says he thought the move would hurt downtown, but soon saw the opportunities of open land...

"They had the space that we didn't have in the downtown to accommodate the facility. They were able to bring in a hotel which was a major anchor that served as a catalyst to other development. It really became more of a resort-type location."

... and open sights.

"We're constantly creating new businesses," says Rock Island's City Planner, Thomas Thomas. "We're bringing in more housing to live down in the downtown area and it's opened up the entire river for viewing."

And Thomas says the work is not done out on Interstate 280 and Highway 92. After more than four years surrounded by basically nothing, Thomas says something big may be happening on Big Island, which is located across from Jumer's on I-280. Thomas say a market study shows the amount of traffic passing by and stopping in Jumer's could support some sort of retail development in the area.

"They're not just from the Quad Cities area, they're from as far away as Chicago, they're from as far away as Des Moines, and that's the kind of traffic numbers that justifies trying to get some sort of retail in that location and take advantage of it."

"Where there is traffic, investment follows and casinos are like that," adds Schwiebert.

Exactly what type of investment remains to be seen. Thomas says Big Island needs some levee modifications, which need to be approved by the Corps of Engineers, before they can start marketing it to possible developers.

Meanwhile, Davenport's negotiating team has a little less than a month before the city needs to put their casino plan (which includes purchasing the Rhythm City Casino) on the March 7th agenda of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission for their approval.