News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Steve Israel, The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 12, 2003 - Dec. 11, 2003 - KIAMESHA LAKE, NY-- Welcome to yet another episode of the Days of the Concord's Lives, the saga of the once-glorious Catskill resort that keeps reinventing itself but never opens.
It stars Westchester developer Louis Cappelli, who has hatched more plans for the gray and gutted resort than Elizabeth Taylor has had husbands. They're plans that have ranged from a reborn resort – with the new bedspread material to prove it – to a Turnberry Westin Golf Resort and Spa – with a management deal to prove that.
The latest: Cappelli just met with the major player on the New York Indian casino scene, Mickey Brown, who runs the only open Indian casino of the six allowed by a 2001 state law – the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls. Cappelli talked to Brown about a Seneca casino at the Concord. This is the same Mickey Brown who ran Foxwoods in Connecticut.
Brown, who called the meetings "introductory," is impressed. The CEO who has already talked Sullivan casino with Rochester developer David Flaum especially likes two things the Concord has: the world-renowned "Monster" golf course and sewer and water infrastructure.
"They're both very expensive to build," he said, adding that there was no timetable and that the Senecas are now concentrating on developing a casino on their reservation in western New York.
Yesterday, Cappelli helicoptered to Sullivan County to brief the man whose town would host a Concord casino, Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini.
Cappelli, who was accompanied by lawyers, told Cellini and town lawyers about the meetings with the Senecas – and of his year-and-a-half talks with another tribe with casino eyes on the Catskills, the New York Oneidas.
Cappelli now wants to swap his Planning Board approval for a convention center at the Concord for approval of a 225,000-square-foot casino. The plans would still include a 1,500-room resort and convention center, but they wouldn't be on tax-exempt Indian casino land.
Cellini, who has heard more casino – and Concord – proposals than JLo has had wedding plans, was impressed. He knows his town still doesn't have anything to show for that 2001 law allowing three of the Indian casinos in the Catskills.
"The Senecas are one large step ahead," he said, referring to the Niagara Falls casino, their federal approval for two other western New York casinos and their compact with the state.
Then he repeated the phrase he's said more times than the Concord has had lives:
"I just like to get one casino here."
THE CAPPELLI YEARS
February 1997: Concord files for bankruptcy protection. Sullivan County, owed more than $8 million in taxes, is the resort's largest creditor.
January 1999: The hotel is sold at a bankruptcy foreclosure auction for $10.25 million to a partnership led by Joseph Murphy with Westchester developer Louis R. Cappelli as a silent partner. Cappelli purchases Grossinger's Hotel in Liberty for future redevelopment. He later buys out Murphy.
March 2000: Cappelli and the publicly traded Reckson Strategic Venture Partners announce a plan to redevelop the Concord as a world-class resort.
Oct. 10, 2000: Cappelli and his partners hold a groundbreaking ceremony and begin demolition.
Jan. 11, 2001: Cappelli dazzles county legislators with architectural drawings, a view of the plans and a swatch of the bedspreads for the $237 million hotel project.
May 17, 2001: Concord management announces management agreement with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, the company that runs the Westin chain. Cappelli announces renovations will start in August 2001.
Feb. 4, 2002: Cappelli says plans are on hold until he determines what will happen with Catskill casinos.
Feb. 19, 2002: Cappelli says he wants to build a monorail to connect Concord to proposed casinos. He says he never signed the deal with the Westin chain. He will wait for the casinos.
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(c) 2003, The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.