Ameristar unveils first phase of $100M expansion|[05/25/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2008

Project one of largest in Vicksburg’s history

Power drills buzzed, hammers pounded and fresh paint was being applied Friday morning as workers feverishly moved to complete the initial phase of a $100 million expansion of Ameristar Casino in time for the 6 p.m. opening.

An eight-story parking garage, a live poker room and an expanded gaming floor with approximately 500 slot machines and table games were unveiled Friday. By July, additional amenities such as two themed restaurants and an upscale lounge for VIP patrons will open. Retail space and a Starbucks coffeehouse are expected to be complete by the end of the year.

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Harry Anders, left, and Lamond Perkins, slot machine manager, check Friday to see that the equipment on Ameristar’s expanded gaming floor are working properly.Dennis Fountain, left, poker room supervisor, and Latonia Lush, floor supervisor, do a last-minute check Friday of the new poker room at Ameristar. “This project is not just about adding more machines and tables, it’s really about adding amenities and enhancing the gaming experience for our customers,” said Ameristar Vicksburg General Manager Adrian Caldwell.

The largest of the city’s four casinos even before the expansion, Ameristar is hoping its larger presence in Vicksburg and on the entire Mississippi casino industry will draw more tourists to the city, said public relations manager Bess Averett.

“We want to help transform Vicksburg from a day trip market into a destination city,” she said. “This is huge for Vicksburg tourism. We’re providing more experiences that are important to our guests.”

If you goThe new parking garage, live poker room and expanded gaming floor at Ameristar is open, but a grand opening featuring a Corvette car show, crawfish boil and live entertainment will be from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. June 7. Tickets are $15, and can be purchased at the casino.By the numbersAmeristar’s expansion project is one of the most expensive construction endeavors in the city’s recent history.1997 – Construction of Vicksburg Convention Center, $10 million2002 – Construction of River Region Medical Center, $123 million2008 – Ongoing construction of Riverwalk Casino and Hotel (set to open Nov. 1), $100 millionAbout 100 additional employees will be hired for the restaurants, retail store, Starbucks and expanded gaming floor, Averett said. The casino currently employs about 930. The expansion began in 2005 and provides Ameristar a total of about 65,000 square feet of gaming space and 2,000 gaming devices, said Caldwell.

The poker room features 10 tables and is the largest in Vicksburg. The casino originally had a smaller poker room, but it closed in 2002, just before televised poker games skyrocketed in popularity.

When completed in July, Pearl’s Oyster Bar will specialize in fresh seafood and Cajun cuisine, while DeliLUX will serve cook-to-order sandwiches and dinners.

Following this weekend’s soft opening, a grand opening featuring a Corvette car show, crawfish boil and live entertainment will be from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. June 7. Tickets for the event are $15, and can be purchased at the casino.

Founded in 1954 in Jackpot, Nev., Ameristar owns and operates eight casinos across the country. The Vicksburg casino opened in 1994.