Reports out of the Windy City suggest the effort to build the $1.74 billion Bally’s Illinois casino project in Chicago could take a big step forward this week.
Robert Channick of the Chicago Tribune touched base with his sources and filed a casino update on Monday. Those sources told him that Bally’s could finalize the Freedom Center printing plant purchase at some point this week.
The 30-acre River West property is owned by the Tribune’s owners — Nexstar Media Group out of Dallas. Bally’s has until Oct. 25 to close the deal.
Bally’s and Nexstar aren’t talking publicly about the transaction, however.
An idled printing plant in nearby Milwaukee is another domino in Bally’s Chicago plans. Milwaukee Business Journal Senior Reporter Rich Kirchen said Tribune Media real estate affiliate Twenty Lake Holding just acquired the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal’s printing plant.
By firing up the shuttered plant in Milwaukee, Nexstar could still print the Tribune even after it sells the West River property to Bally’s. The Freedom Center printing plant and the Milwaukee newspaper are just 90 miles apart.
What will Bally’s Illinois casino look like?
Specifically, the Chicago Tribune publishing center is located at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street. The location puts the casino within walking distance of popular stops along Michigan Avenue. Bally’s plans plenty of amenities for guests to stay on-site, however. Options include:
- 3,400 slots
- 173 table games
- 10 food and beverage venues
- a hotel tower with up to 500 rooms and a rooftop bar
- an outdoor music space capable of hosting 1,000 guests
- plus a 3,000-seat, 70,000-square-foot indoor entertainment center
- and an outdoor green space.
How Bally’s got a seat at the table
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fast-tracked efforts to bring Bally’s to the River West district because of a $40 million upfront payment. The Chicago City Council granted its approval with a 41-7 vote.
The mayor liked Bally’s Chicago casino plans. The $40 million payment helped fend off a pre-election property tax increase in the city. The cash also helped keep police and fire pensions solvent for the year.
Bally’s Chicago won’t be ready until at least 2026. The gaming and resort company has plans for a temporary casino in the meantime. Bally’s will house the temporary casino in the century-old Medinah Temple.
Medinah Temple sits between Ontario and Ohio Streets to the north and south. To the east is Wabash Ave, and to the west is State St. Plans call for 800 gaming positions plus food and beverage options.
Traffic concerns have thrown a wrench in the Bally’s Chicago Temporary Casino licensing process, but the company hopes to open Medinah Temple for bets by the summer of 2023.