Later this month, Bally’s is expected to ink a deal to purchase the Chicago Tribune printing plant from Nexstar Media Group for $200 million. It is the next step in the plan to construct the largest Illinois casino.
The plant, known as the Freedom Center, is 30 acres and located in River West. Bally’s plans to resell the property and lease it back to help fund its $1.74 billion casino and hotel plans. Bally’s game plan was reported during the company’s third quarter earnings conference earlier this month.
When Nexstar purchased Tribune Media for $4.1 billion in 2019, it also acquired the Freedom Center. Nexstar CFO Lee Ann Gliha had this to say about Bally’s buying the property:
“Also expected to positively impact our fourth quarter is the anticipated sale of one of our remaining real estate properties in Chicago for net cash proceeds of approximately $155 million. The transaction is expected to close later this month.”
According to Bally’s chair Soo Kim, the deal is expected to finalize before Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24th.
The long, rocky road for Bally’s
Bally’s won the Chicago casino bid this past May. But it had to beat out Hard Rock and Rivers’ proposals for a Windy City casino.
Bally’s successfully won the race, but it’s been anything but smooth sailing since. Residents that call River West and River North home aren’t so ecstatic to have the gaming operator move to the neighborhood.
A few months after Bally’s sent an application for a gaming license to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB), a River North community group met with casino officials. The council presented a list of 42 concerns it had with Bally’s casino proposal.
In September, Chicago’s Committee on Design (CoD) had a two hour meeting with Bally’s reps to discuss the casino plans. The topics discussed pertained to how Bally’s site would impact the neighborhoods.
Then in October, Bally’s released a report showing that opening a temporary casino at Medinah Temple, an entertainment venue in Chicago, wouldn’t cause significant traffic problems.
Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward alderperson, spoke loudly and made it very clear he disagreed with those findings. He said:
“As far as I’m concerned, this study is seriously flawed, overly vague and clearly written for the sole purpose of concluding a casino will work at Medinah Temple. Having read literally hundreds of traffic studies over the years, I can tell you this one is thin gruel and lacks the credibility that an independent analysis would’ve provided.”
The show goes on
Despite tons of backlash, Bally’s pushes forward with plans to open a temporary casino in June 2023. The permanent site will not open before 2026.
The Chicago casino is expected to rake in about $200 million in annual tax revenue for the city. It also projects to be the largest Illinois casino, and bigger than any of Bally’s 15 casinos currently in operation.
Here’s what patrons can expect from the permanent casino:
- 500-room hotel
- 3,000-seat theater
- 3,400 slot machines
- 170 table games
- Outdoor music venue
- Six restaurants