|By Mary Perez, The Sun Herald, Biloxi,
Miss.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jul. 8, 2009--BILOXI -- While other casino development is waiting on the economy to recover, the owners of the Palace Casino in Biloxi are expanding and adding a spa and fitness center, meeting facilities, business center and a new buffet.
General Manager Keith Crosby said he doesn't have a price tag or artist renderings yet, but the plan is to restore the Palace to the four-star resort it was before Hurricane Katrina. He expects construction to start around February.
"All the elements we had we will get back in some form or other," he said.
The 110,000-square-foot expansion will start at the front door with a remodeled lobby and atrium, a new front desk, concierge area and VIP check-in.
When the expansion is complete in 2011, the Palace Casino resort will have 38,000 square feet of casino space with more than 1,000 slot machines, 26 new table games and a poker room with high-limit salon. There will be non-smoking areas and improved air quality throughout the casino, the company said in a press release.
A new 300-seat buffet with live cooking stations and a bakery will replace the buffet that was created in the ballroom after the storm.
The new cafe and grill will be open 24 hours and the combination lounge and sports bar will have a stage for live entertainment. Mignon's Steaks and Seafood will remain and the lounge that was popular before the storm will return.
Crosby said the Palace consciously didn't go beyond the temporary casino that was created after Katrina destroyed the resort's casino barge and the casino was incorporated into the resort.
Instead the management spent time analyzing how they should proceed rather than immediately renovating.
Crosby said the casino will take advantage of low construction costs that came with the economic downturn.
"We are bringing back many of the amenities we lost to again provide our guests the complete package," he said. "We will also maintain many of our current amenities that have become popular like our signature golf course, The Preserve, our first-class marina and our award-winning fine dining restaurant, Mignon's."
The architecture and interior design work is being led by Cunningham Group, which designed many of the interior areas of the Palace before Katrina.
"To lose it all in a day was really hard on everyone," Crosby said of the storm's destruction. He announced the plans to employees on Monday and said, "I'm excited about the reaction I got from them."
"The key to our success over the past 12 years has never been based on the bricks and mortar," said Palace Casino owner Robert Low, "but rather the hard work of our dedicated associates and the high quality of personal service they provide to our guests."
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