|By Mary Francis Masson, Detroit Free
PressMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
February 10, 2009 - High atop the gleaming glass tower of the new Greektown Casino hotel, some lucky guest soon will be able to relax in a whirlpool tub and contemplate a floor-to-ceiling view of the RenCen and the Detroit River.
The long-awaited hotel connected to the casino in Detroit's well-known neighborhood is to officially open Thursday, a good news milestone for the troubled gaming operation.
With its glitzy gold and purple interior, impressive multi-story lobby and rooms with huge windows and spectacular views, the hotel is worth the wait, Greektown officials hope.
"This is for people who want to stay in Detroit where there's stuff to do outside the door," said Randall A. Fine, managing director of the Fine Point Group. Fine's company, based in Las Vegas, has been contracted to turn around the Greektown operation, which has been in bankruptcy since May.
"The room product is of a caliber and quality to be proud of ... this is going to be a place people want to stay, a place for regular folks who want a good time and a great gaming value."
The hotel has 400 rooms, a cocktail lounge with a go-go theme, and a 170-plus-seat restaurant, Bistro 555, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hotel, priced at $550 million including a casino expansion, is connected to the casino through a long walkway, eliminating the distraction of noise from the gaming floor.
The multistory lobby features a concrete and fiberglass sculpture made of 63 pieces weighing 1,700 pounds each, a custom-made hand-blown glass chandelier and sleek gold couches. There are 10 banquet rooms and a huge ballroom that can be broken into three separate rooms.
Unlike its competitors the MGM Grand and the MotorCity Casino, Greektown's hotel does not include a high-end spa. That's partly because of its location -- the Greektown neighborhood didn't allow a lot of space -- and also its focus on being an affordable product. A typical double room, for example, would rent in the low $100s nightly.
"Spas can take up a lot of space ... and it's massively expensive to go up higher," said Bill Williams, vice president of guest services, about the 30-floor building.
"Paying $200 for a massage doesn't really fit with our regular-folks orientation," Fine added.
Fine stressed the advantage that Greektown has over its competitors, being in the middle of Greektown's attractions, just blocks or a short People Mover ride from sporting events. The People Mover stops at the casino. The operation can market to a Detroit visitor looking to attend a hockey game or to someone coming to town for the casino.
The hotel is already booked solid for the NCAA Final Four in April at Ford Field.
It's not been an easy road for the hotel project. The general contractor warned several times it might walk off the job because of concerns Greektown couldn't pay for the work. Just last week, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved $22.5 million in loans, part of a $46-million financing package that Greektown officials say was needed to get the hotel finished. The Michigan Gaming Control Board is expected to approve that loan package at its regular meeting today.
The hotel is crucial to Greektown's future -- owners are trying to lure buyers who want a finished product and the City of Detroit has required a permanent, finished complex before it will grant a tax rollback. The rollback could improve Greektown's cash flow by $1.3 million each month.
"The hotel is critical from the standpoint that we've had a partially completed casino for so long now ... this will allow the casino to realize its full potential," said Damian Kassab, chairman of the state Gaming Control Board.
Kassab said the tax rollback would help attract a top-notch operator. Greektown, which opened in 2000, now owes $755 million to banks, bondholders and former owners, according to bankruptcy documents.
Contact MARY FRANCIS MASSON at 313-222-6159.
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