Casino plans unveiled for Fonner Park
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Fonner Park announced Friday morning that Elite Casino Restorts, LLC. will be its casino operator.
And the name of the future casino: Grand Island Casino Resort at Fonner Park.
Fonner Park CEO Chris Kotulak said the process started five months ago when they started taking proposals on November 6, 2020. They received nine responses to requests and met with eight operators with what they proposed.
Fonner Park officials said one eventually stood out as the right one for the job.
Kotulak said he worked with the executive board and four Fonner Park past presidents to come up with the decision.
“Unfortunately there are a couple different casino operations that obviously we didn’t go with, that it was hard to tell them no but boy are we in love with who we have right now,” Kotulak said.
Fonner Park President Dan Fogland said Elite Casino Resorts, LLC. was selected.
Elite Casino Resorts, LLC is a family-built casino operation which started in 1990 with Iowa’s first riverboat casino license and has grown to over 1,200 investors, valuing local ownership in each property.
The Kehl Family started in the food and beverage industry and transitioned in the gaming industry.
Dan Kehl, the CEO of Elite Casino Resorts, said it’s going to be a $100 million investment to be completed in one phase. They expect $45 million in hard construction costs and $3.45 million in renovations of existing Fonner Park property. They expect to be up and running in about two years.
“We’re so excited about coming here to Nebraska and more importantly coming here to Grand Island,” Kehl said. “This is the type of thing that we do. We love to come to communities "
The casino floor will have a seamless connection to the current Fonner Park structure.
The casino floor will have 650 slot machines with the ability to grow up to 850 slot machines. There will be 20 table games, sports bar with Sportsbook and an energetic show lounge with live entertainment.
There will also be a 116-room boutique hotel which will include luxury suites and rooms with balconies. The hotel will also have an indoor and outdoor pool as well as a full-service spa and salon.
Kehl said there will be classy and fun food options with Ruthie’s Steak and Seafood that will be on the rooftop. He said there will be something for everybody.
DLR Group’s Nathan Casteel designed the resort and he’s actually from Grand Island. He brought elements of agriculture and Nebraska’s landscape into the design.
“I hope that resonates mentally for people when they see these images and it kind of gives them a nostalgia about how they grew up in this community,” Casteel said.
Back in November 2020, Nebraska voters overwhelmingly approved measures to allow casino gambling at state-licensed horse racing tracks.
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