Rainbow sprucing up on Warrenton Road|[7/15/06]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 15, 2006

Brush clearing part of flurry of casino activity ahead of regulators’ visit.

As operators of the latest proposed casino in Vicksburg and the new owners of the area’s oldest casino are primed for an appearance before state regulators Thursday, the youngest of Vicksburg’s original four is preparing for the expected flurry of activity one speck of dirt at a time.

Players at Rainbow Casino can now use something other than the casino’s sign as a reference point when they approach the casino from Warrenton Road – the building itself.

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This week, crews with Riverside Construction worked to clear thick brush growing between the road and a sharp drop to the parking lot.

Besides the most obvious effect, improving the view of the building from the road, the casino also contracted the company to clear about four acres at various spots around the property, excavate and re-route water flow, general manager Curt Follmer said.

&#8220It was getting pretty jungly and ugly there,” Follmer said. &#8220Eventually it will be resodded and we’ll also own another house up there,” Follmer said.

The casino’s new restaurant River View Buffet will feature escalators and is expected to open in another six to eight weeks, Follmer said.

&#8220There will be an unobstructed view of the river,” Follmer said.

The restaurant was a $5 million part of a larger renovation at Rainbow that was completed in late 2004, which included an indoor walkway connecting the hotel to the casino, a business center and complete renovations of all 89 of its hotel rooms.

Rainbow’s improvements play into a surge in activity in the Vicksburg casino market in the coming year – if expansions under way and those still on the drawing board take wing.

Upriver at Ameristar, parts of a $150 million expansion have moved briskly this year, like a new 1,000-space parking garage. A redesign of its hotel on Washington Street and a new 14-story hotel are yet to come.

Illinois-based Legends Gaming purchased Isle of Capri Casino in February for $240 million in cash. The new casino will be named DiamondJacks Casino and Hotel, with its licensing application to be considered by the Mississippi Gaming Commission Thursday.

As for the three proposed casinos, land near Meadow Lane along the Mississippi River was transferred this week to a group affiliated with Minnesota-based Lakes Entertainment. Lakes Mississippi LLC’s casino development is expected to cost $200 million, with site development expiring Feb. 16, 2007.

The second, Riverwalk Casino received its site approval in July 2005 and its development plan approved in December 2005. Approval of its riverside site north of Rainbow expires July 14, 2007.

Mississippi Bluffs Development Inc. received a special exception from the city Board of Zoning Appeals Tuesday to develop the third, on 40 acres of land on the river side of Warrenton Road that was part of the defunct Vicksburg Chemical plant.

Officials of the group will also appear before the Mississippi Gaming Commission Thursday in their case to obtain site approval.

Developer Paul Bunge, a Denver native and founder of the Bluffs group, plans to include a golf course designed by Hale Irwin Golf Design and an outlet shopping development on the property under his Colorado firm, Silver Tip Project Partners LLC.