|By Tim Barker, St. Louis
Post-DispatchMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 22, 2007 --Here's the problem: You have to get a boat nearly 1,000 feet away from the river without using any water to move it.
This is the obstacle faced by companies operating in a world of ever-changing casino regulation. Riverboats no longer have to be on a river. They don't have to cruise. In fact, they often don't even have to touch river water.
But still they must float.
It is a challenge that has been answered with concrete and Styrofoam by a pair of casinos opening this year in St. Louis.
Both projects -- Lumiére Place in Downtown St. Louis and the Casino Queen in East St. Louis -- are being built under rules that no longer require casinos to sit in a river channel. Both fall into the category of "boat in a moat." For the casinos, this represents both an opportunity and a challenge. On one hand, they get to build casinos that come just a little bit closer to replicating that Las Vegas feeling. On the other hand, they have to figure out how to get the boat into the moat.
"We couldn't very well dig a ditch up to our site and float a barge up there," said Robert Herr, project manager for Lumiére Place, which is being built by Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. several blocks from the Mississippi River.
In both cases, the only part of the building that floats will be the floor itself. Think of it as a building erected around a swimming pool containing a raft.
It is the construction of the raft that sets apart Lumiére Place and the Casino Queen.
Pinnacle's $10 million floor is essentially an eight-foot-thick concrete barge built in a basin nearly 11 feet deep. Weighing in at 9,000 tons, the floor was pushed afloat when workers pumped more than 1.5 million gallons of water into the basin.
While it won't be going anywhere "" the floor is held in place by anchors and restraining shafts that severely limit its movement "" that doesn't mean it doesn't have to be seaworthy.
"This would float on the Gulf of Mexico if we could get it there," Herr said.
Across the Mississippi, the Casino Queen has taken a lighter approach.
The Queen's floor features 18 inches of concrete poured over six feet of Styrofoam.
But it's actually a bit more complicated than that. It took some 12,000 sheets of Styrofoam to build the 24 layers making up the bulk of the floor, said Ryan Taylor, senior project manager for Clayco Inc., one of the casino's builders.
But even with the lighter Styrofoam, Taylor said, the barge will be a stable surface for gamblers. "Even if everyone went to one side, it might move a little. But not a huge amount," Taylor said.
There is, however, one slight drawback to using Styrofoam. Over time, it gradually will soak up water from the basin.
Replacing the foam, when that happens, is not an option.
"The foam is there for the life of the facility," Taylor said. "You just add more water to compensate for it."
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Copyright (c) 2007, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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