Bally’s Chicago is in scramble mode after discovering foundation problems at the site of its future permanent casino resort.
Initial plans for a 500-room hotel tower at the Freedom Center must be scrapped to avoid damaging city water pipes near the Chicago River.
Moving the tower to another spot at the site, however, should not cause a significant delay on the project, a casino representative said.
Bally’s found unforeseen foundation weaknesses
Bally’s Chicago will be the latest of Illinois casinos when its permanent facility is finished in 2026.
Bally’s Chicago won a big contract to build a casino complex at the 30-acre River West site, which was home to the Chicago Tribune printing plant. The operator received final planning and zoning approval from the city in December 2022.
The project includes a casino with 3,400 slot machines and 170 table games positions. It will also have a 500-room hotel, a 3,000-seat theater and 10 restaurants.
Concerns arose while Bally’s began a detailed exploration of the foundation needed to build a 500-room hotel tower along the river at Chicago Avenue. Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim says underground water pipe concerns were unforeseen when the original plans for the casino complex were approved. Bally’s informed the city of the issue, and both parties agreed that building the foundation at the approved spot would be too risky, Kim said.
“We need to come up with a different way to build a tower because we can’t now put it on Chicago Avenue.”
The initial plan would have a 100-room hotel base near the Chicago River, with a 400-room tower built on top of it within five years of opening the permanent casino. However, there is now a new plan that would move the 100-room structure from the north end of the casino complex to the south.
The 400-room piece to this hotel tower puzzle will also be relocated. It could be moved to the south or west side of the casino building. This means the 400-room tower may be shorter if it doesn’t end up being placed on top of the 100-room base.
Bally’s submitted the revised site plan to the city in December. Changes to the site plan are allowed under the contract. They can be handled administratively by the city without going back through the entire planning and zoning process.
Bally’s Chicago casino still on track for 2026 opening
Despite the hiccup, Kim says the change in design will not postpone the planned opening of the permanent Bally’s Chicago casino in 2026. The company still plans to break ground on the permanent casino site sometime this year, Kim said.
“There’s no delay as long as we’re building the 100 rooms somewhere. And the easiest place to build 100 rooms is on top of the existing structure versus trying to lay out new structures. The whole point of this minor change is so there’s no delay.”
Bally’s expects to finalize revised plans for the 100-room hotel building within weeks. Meanwhile, a location for the 400-room hotel tower may take several months to work out. The $1.7 billion mega-casino resort project will create 3,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs.
In the meantime, Bally’s is operating a temporary casino at Medinah Temple. Since opening in September, it has drawn in nearly 350,000 visitors while collecting $30.3 million in revenue. That has generated almost $3.9 million in state tax revenue and over $3.1 million in local tax revenue.