|By Rick Alm, The Kansas City Star,
Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Mar. 22, 2007 - For years an artist's rendering prominently displayed outside the general manager's office depicted a hotel as part of the Argosy Riverside Casino complex.
A succession of casino GMs promised that the hotel was still on the drawing boards and coming soon.
The picture disappeared from the wall several years ago. But the hotel has finally appeared, and it will open April 2.
"It's been a long time coming," said Tom Burke, general manager.
Designed by Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets Inc. of Westwood, the $66 million, 258-room hotel managed by the casino's staff will register its first guests less than 22 months after groundbreaking ceremonies.
With an existing ballroom that can handle crowds of 600, and six new state-of-the-art meeting rooms in the attached hotel, the Argosy aims to attract more corporate business and private parties to the complex just a few minutes north of downtown Kansas City.
"We're very pleased" with advance bookings said Burke, who declined to disclose numbers.
If the pack-the-casino-with-hotel-guests strategy works, Argosy will be positioned for a run at knocking off Harrah's North Kansas City Casino and Hotel as No. 2 in the daily battle for market share. Beyond that, Burke said, "We want to help grow the Kansas City tourism market ... attract people who want to visit the casinos, Kansas Speedway, downtown."
Riverside Mayor Kathleen Rose has her fingers crossed, too.
Since it opened in 1994, the casino has been the tiny hamlet's largest taxpayer. Argosy pumps almost $7 million a year into city coffers -- around 70 percent of the annual city budget. Since its founding in 1951 the city has levied no property or earnings tax on its 3,000 residents.
The hotel's stark, nine-story glass tower has a veneer of false fronts up to four stories tall that create the illusion of a Mediterranean village streetscape -- complete with faux chipped and peeling paint. The hotel melds into the desert fortresslike casino structure and a parking garage on the west end.
A Mediterranean theme also dominates inside the complex, which now offers 22,000 square feet of combined meeting, ballroom and function space identified by such monikers as the Marrakesh and Barcelona rooms.
The hotel is embellished throughout with expansive flourishes of faux stone, wrought iron, mosaic tiling, leather wall coverings and rich pastels.
However, the Mediterranean theme occasionally is broken by modern intrusions, including a VIP check-in desk behind a frosted glass wall, and hotel lobby kiosks offering remote airline boarding pass service.
Half the guest rooms offer southern exposure with a postcard view of the Missouri River and Kansas City skyline. The no-discount, standard rack rate starts at $149.
Eight suites on the top floor go for $650 a night. Beneath the suites' 14-foot ceilings are elegantly furnished sitting and bed rooms that feature 42-inch, HD plasma flat-screen TVs, wet bars and two baths. The large bath has an oval soaking tub, but without such 21st century luxury lodging touches like Jacuzzi jets and in-tub TVs.
The ground floor fitness center has TV-equipped treadmills and other sweat-inducing gear; there's no swimming pool.
Business center computer and fax access is competitively priced. A hard-wire link is priced at $7.50 for 15 minutes. The entire hotel is wired for wireless with access at $9.95 for 24 hours.
A modest day spa will be open to the public for appointments. Massages start at $50 for 30 minutes; pedicures, $25.
"We're going to be busy," said spa manager Heather Prendergast, a 15-year veteran of Kansas City's spa industry. "It's pretty stiff competition, but we're in a real good spot here" between downtown and upscale Northland neighborhoods.
The Argosy was designed from the beginning with a hotel in mind.
The construction announcement finally came in June 2004 when executives at Illinois-based Argosy disclosed a $75 million blueprint for a hotel and a new parking garage. The expansion footprint tore out the casino's original parking garage, where the hotel now sits.
The announcement came just six months after Argosy opened a $105 million casino expansion that added new restaurants and doubled the size of the gambling floor.
Since groundbreaking, Argosy Gaming was acquired by Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming in a merger valued at $2.2 billion.
Casino officials acknowledged that it took the bigger casino and its revenues to give Argosy the marketplace power it needed to justify a hotel.
That first year in the new casino revenues blossomed. Argosy's market share jumped to an average 21.6 percent from 15.7 percent in the final year it operated from a three-deck and quite-real paddlewheel riverboat.
The casino has continued to gobble market share, growing to 22.7 percent last year and hitting a property record 24.4 percent last month.
Harrah's, which led Argosy in the market share battle by an 18.3 percent margin at the end of 2003, has watched its upstart rival close the gap to 5.6 percent at the end of 2006.
Harrah's countered with an expansion and upgrade of its own. But its market share has barely moved, up in 2006 by less than one percent.
Neither Harrah's nor Argosy has much chance of overtaking market leader Ameristar Kansas City Casino and Hotel, which has settled in at a dominant 36-plus percent slice of the market.
The hotel general contractor for the newly named Argosy Casino Hotel & Spa was Kansas City-based Walton Construction.
To reach Rick Alm, call (816) 234-4785 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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