A timeline for the opening of the largest Illinois casino is now a bit more clear, as the Chicago Tribune has agreed to exit the Freedom Center printing press by July 2024. It will be demolished to make way for the Bally’s Chicago casino after the Tribune has moved out of the building.
Tribune Publishing had the right to remain at the Freedom Center for up to 10 more years. Instead, Bally’s will issue cash payments to the Tribune to get the newspaper company moved out faster. The amount of money agreed upon is unclear.
With the Freedom Center expected to be empty by summer 2024, Bally’s will demolish the building shortly after and begin construction sometime next year. This brings an expectation for Bally’s Chicago, which will be the largest Illinois casino, to open its permanent casino by 2026.
Getting up to speed with Bally’s pursuit of the Freedom Center
Bally’s and Tribune Publishing have been in negotiations for months concerning the newspaper company’s exit from the Freedom Center. Now, a major step has been taken. And a timetable now in place for the River West site to be empty.
Bally’s officially purchased the printing press buildings from Nexstar Media, the company that owns Tribune Publishing, for $200 million in November 2022. In the days following the transaction, Bally’s sold the property. A Chicago real estate firm purchased the land for $500 million and leased it back.
In February, Bally’s hit the newspaper company with an eviction notice. According to the Chicago Tribune, Bally’s chairman Soo Kim pitched Chicago officials on the idea of shifting the location of Bally’s to keep the printing press site open as a tourist attraction. But Kim failed to get the thumbs up from lawmakers, so Bally’s will proceed with demolishing the Freedom Center.
Bally’s will spend $1.74 billion on the Chicago casino project, which includes a 500-room hotel. The casino is expected to house 3,400 slot machines, 170 table games, 10 bars and restaurants. There will also be a variety of entertainment amenities.
Bally’s temporary casino coming soon
Illinoisans and visitors will be forced to wait until 2026 for Chicago’s mega-casino to open its doors. But Bally’s plans to open a temporary casino sometime this summer. It will give Chicago gamblers a taste of what’s to come in a few years.
The original plan was for the short-term casino to be at the site of Bally’s future permanent location. Instead, it will be at the Medinah Temple which is less than a mile east of the Tribune printing press.
In February, the Illinois Gaming Board unanimously agreed to grant suppliers licenses for the groups looking to open a casino at Medinah Temple. Bally’s needs construction work will need to be completed before the temporary casino can start welcoming guests.
Once Bally’s casino at Medinah Temple opens, it will be a three-floor complex open 24/7. Bettors will be treated to 800 slot machines, 50 table games, a restaurant and bar.