|By Denise Allabaugh, The Citizens' Voice,
Wilkes-Barre, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 07, 2012--PLAINS TWP. -- Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is getting closer to building a hotel.
The casino has filed building and foundation permits with Plains Township's zoning office to construct a seven-story hotel with 238 rooms and convention space.
Bobby Soper, president and chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, said the project, expected to break ground this year, will cost more than $40 million and be designed by Connecticut-based JCJ Architecture. Mohegan Sun will operate the hotel itself.
Plains Township's zoning board approved plans for a hotel at the casino in November 2009. Since then, it has been scaled down from the original plan for a nine-story hotel with more than 300 rooms. The project has been moving slow as a result of challenges in raising money, Soper said.
"We have more confidence that we are going to be able to procure the financing," Soper said Wednesday. "We don't have a date for the ground-breaking, but we want to be ready that when we do finalize our financing, we'll be able to proceed expeditiously."
The hotel will take up part of the VIP parking lot and valet area, which will be relocated to another location that has yet to be determined, Soper said. When complete, the hotel will be connected to the casino. Soper expects the hotel will attract more table game players and other guests.
"It allows us the lodging amenities to provide overnight stays and complete our goal of being a complete destination," Soper said. "It has been a common request from our patrons to be able to stay at the property."
Merle Mackin, executive director of Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau, praised Mohegan Sun's plans because the new development will create jobs, including both construction and hotel jobs, and the convention space will help to market the area for meetings and conventions.
Mackin said the hotel would be a "welcome addition" to an already growing amount of hospitality properties in Luzerne County.
"Since the inception of table games, I'm sure it will attract a wider area of patrons and will allow us and the casino to market to a further audience that currently exists because of the fact that they can stay," Mackin said.
In addition to patronizing the casino, he said the development will have ripple effects because people will look to expand their stay throughout Luzerne County, attend other events, participate in other activities and patronize other businesses.
"It is a step in the right direction," Mackin said.
Plains Township will also collect more real estate taxes from the development, said Plains Township Commissioner Ron Filippini.
As the host community for Mohegan Sun, Plains Township already receives about $2.3 million in gaming money a year. That money has allowed Plains Township to increase manpower in its police and fire departments, buy a ladder truck and complete several street improvements and storm-sewer projects, Filippini said.
"It (the hotel) is going to increase our property values and will bring more people into the area as a tourist attraction," Filippini said. "It should help some of the other businesses."
(c)2012 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)
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