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Detailed Bali plans for a temple in Medina

Bally’s and city officials raised concerns about increased crime and traffic at Medinah Temple Casino’s temporary site during a public meeting Tuesday.

The historic River North building is slated to open in June and operate as a temporary casino for three years until construction of a permanent Chicago casino on the site of the Liberty Center Printing House is completed. The adaptation of the 110-year-old Moorish-style amphitheater and its surroundings into a 24-hour gambling palace remains unfinished.

“Everything we’re doing here is going to be in a test mode to make sure we have the right customer experience, we have easy access, we have people who are really comfortable with the flow of traffic and how people enter and come out at peak times,” said Amit Patel, senior vice president and regional general manager of Bally’s, during a meeting Tuesday at the VOCO Hotel. “Ultimately, we plan to transfer all the lessons learned from the Madinah Temple to a permanent location as we develop it over the next four years.”

Over the years, the ornate Medina Temple has hosted everything from concerts to the annual Shrine Circus. The building was converted to a Bloomingdale’s home furnishings store in 2003, but sat vacant for more than two years after Macy’s sold the building.

The city directed Bally’s to use the Medinah lot for its temporary casino, despite the lack of on-site parking. The casino will occupy three floors in the Medinah with more than 800 gaming positions, including slot machines and table games, three restaurants and a bar.

Security protocols include a single point of entry on Wabash Avenue, concealed weapons detection technology and a 24-hour video surveillance system. Outside the casino, license plate readers, private security patrols, traffic controllers and police plan to work together to secure the perimeter.

Based on traffic counts at other casinos in the city, according to Tim Doron, a transportation consultant whose firm conducted a site traffic study commissioned by Bally’s, the casino will see four cars arrive and four cars depart per minute during rush hour. To keep traffic moving, Bally’s is committed to hiring three controllers “at least” for the first 90 days of operation, Doran said.

Doron said there are 5,000 parking spaces in nearby garages, with nearly 1,000 spaces available on most evenings. At the casino’s maximum capacity of 1,500, the study estimated that 60% of patrons would arrive by car, resulting in peak demand for 500 additional seats.

“We’re confident there’s enough parking, more than enough parking in fact,” Doron said.

The updated traffic study, released in September, was criticized by Ald as “severely flawed.” Brendan Reilly, whose 42nd district includes the temporary location. It was a theme echoed by several residents at Tuesday’s meeting.

Brian Israel, president of the River North Residents Association, said the traffic study “overestimates” the number of visitors and employees who will walk to the casino and underestimates the neighborhood’s congestion.

He said the lack of free on-site parking and the high cost of parking in a garage could lead more people to use carpools, taxis and charter buses than the study suggests.

“It will worsen congestion, which is already increasing as tourism and commerce gradually move towards pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

Lisa Hackney-James, an Episcopal priest from nearby St. James’ Cathedral, was skeptical that Medina’s temple would have enough parking for both her congregants and the players.

Hackney-James said 200 to 300 people attend Sunday morning services. She sought reassurance that the parking lots would not be “saturated” with casino patrons still rolling the dice starting Saturday night.

“It’s never empty here on a Sunday morning,” she said.

Bali in May won a heated competition to build a Chicago casino that is expected to bring the city $200 million in annual tax revenue. The proposed $1.74 billion complex in River West would include an exhibition hall, a 500-room hotel, a 3,000-seat theater, an outdoor music venue, six restaurants and 4,000 gaming positions, including slot machines and table games, which making it the largest casino in the world. state

Casino company based in Rhode Island bought the 30-acre Freedom Center print site earlier this month for $200 million and performed a sale-leaseback on the ground with Chicago-based Oak Street Real Estate Capital, raising up to $500 million to help build the casino complex.

A meeting to discuss the proposed permanent casino is scheduled for Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. at 700 W. Chicago Ave.

Bally’s will appear before the Chicago Planning Commission on Dec. 12 in an effort to make changes to a planned mixed-use development already approved for Tribune Publishing.



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