Major Resort Developments to Provide Significant Economic Boost to Region
John Jordan | August 2016
Tourism has always been a staple of the Hudson Valley economy. However, two major resort projects are expected to be game-changers for not only the tourism and lodging sectors, but for the regional economy as a whole.
The Hudson Valley, already a major tourist destination, could soon become home to two major resort destinations. At present, a $1.3-billion casino entertainment resort is being developed in Sullivan County and the $500-million Legoland amusement resort development is in the approval process in Orange County.
Back in March, the 40-year quest to bring casino gaming to Sullivan County ended when Montreign Operating Company, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Empire Resorts Inc., submitted its $51-million casino license fee to the New York State Gaming Commission. Empire Resorts is the developer of the Montreign casino and entertainment resort currently under construction in the Town of Thompson.
Empire Resorts was officially awarded a gaming license by the New York State Gaming Commission in December 2015. Empire Resorts is now building the Montreign Resort Casino that is being designed to meet 5-star and 5-diamond standards. A multi-faceted non-gaming four-seasons water park resort adjacent to the casino project is also planned.
Major elements of the 1.5-million-square-foot Montreign Resort Casino resort include:
• A 90,000-square-foot casino over 2,000 slot machines, and more than 100 table games.
• Designated VIP/high-limit areas within the gaming floor will offer a minimum of 26 slot machines, eight table games, and a player’s lounge with food and beverages;
• An 18 story hotel tower containing 332 luxury rooms (including at least eight 1,000 – 1,200 square foot garden suites, seven 1,800 square foot, two story townhouse villas, and 12 penthouse-level suites), indoor pools and fitness center;
• A VIP floor containing six private VIP gaming salons, a private gaming cage, and butler service;
A total of 27,000 square feet of multi-purpose meeting and entertainment space with seating capacity for 1,300 people and a mezzanine level that includes a 14 -16 table poker room, access to outdoor terraces and approximately 7,000 square feet of meeting room space;
• A 7,500 square foot spa;
• Seven restaurants and four bars are on the menu, including an Italian steakhouse restaurant concept of Celebrity Chef, restaurateur and author Scott Conant, a judge on the Food Network’s Chopped program; as well as a high-end Asian restaurant, a “noodle bar,” and a 24-hour eatery.
• A more than 50,000-square-foot “Entertainment Village” with high-end dining facilities, entertainment and retail shops that will be connected via walkway to the casino.
• Empire Resorts is also renovating its 18-hole Monster Golf Course under the supervision of “The “US Open Doctor” Rees Jones.
The non-gaming-related development, formerly known as Adelaar, is being financed by EPR Properties and developed by The Aquatic Development Group of Cohoes, NY. That portion of the development will feature an Indoor Waterpark Lodge including a 325-room hotel, indoor and outdoor water parks, and other amenities. Among The Aquatic Development Group’s diverse portfolio includes the Camelback Resort in the Poconos in Pennsylvania.
Charles Degliomini, executive vice president of government affairs and corporate communications for Empire Resorts, said that site clearing work on the casino project began a little over a year ago. He said that construction of the casino off Exit 106 of Route 17 is on schedule. The casino is mandated by the Gaming Commission to be operational by March 2018.
“We have a very aggressive construction schedule and we have a lot of guys on the job,”Degliomini said. “This is a full PLA (Project Labor Agreement with the Hudson Valley Building & Construction Trades Council) job.” He adds that there are opportunities for anyone who is “swinging a hammer or twisting rebar on our site” who is a member of the unionized building trades. He added that open-shop contractors that sign the PLA can also secure work at the casino project.
Montreign Resort Casino is expected to generate four million new tourist visitations to the Hudson Valley and will create more than 5,000 construction and permanent jobs.
Degliomini cited several factors for the project being on-time—a mild winter and its talented construction workforce headed by construction manager LPCiminelli of Buffalo, NY. “We have probably the best tradesmen on the East Coast working on this project. These men and women are just absolutely phenomenal. They are getting the job done with no problems, no issues. On big construction projects like this you usually read horror stories about labor issues going on, this job is running like a well-oiled machine.”
He said that work is nearly complete on approximately $103 million in infrastructure work. Work is ongoing on a pre-cast 1,600-vehicle underground parking garage as well as work on the 18-story hotel tower. Degliomini noted that steel had already been erected and that the tower now stands seven stories high. When completed, the 18-story tower will be the highest structure in Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties, he noted.
Degliomini said earlier this month that there were about 400 construction workers at the site. However, he expects that the workforce will grow to approximately 1,000 at peak for the casino project and the development could reach between 1,300 to 1,500 workers once work on the water park gets underway.
The project timeline calls for the casino/hotel to be operational by March 2018 with the golf course slated to open several months thereafter. The Entertainment Village will open six months after golfers first hit the tees at the golf course and the adjoining water park is expected to open for its first patrons in March 2019.
When asked whether the proposed Legoland theme park in Goshen would be an issue to the Montreign resort, Degliomini in fact said the development could likely bring more business to the casino resort located about 35 miles north of the planned Orange County amusement park.
“We like the fact that they (Legoland) will create 1 million new visitations to the region,” he said. “We think that is a positive… It is not a competitor to our business.” He added that if the Legoland park is developed, some families will perhaps instead of just limiting their vacation to a day or two at Legoland, will extend their trip to spend time at the Montreign casino resort and water park.
Legoland Moving Forward
With Goshen Development
GOSHEN—Merlin Entertainments plc filed plans with the Town of Goshen in June for its $500-million theme park to be built on property bordering Route 17.
During a recent Open House, John Ussher, senior divisional director, Legoland Development, and John Jakobsen, chief new openings officer, made multiple presentations to inform attendees of the specific details of the project and how Merlin was to mitigate some of the concerns the Town of Goshen and its residents might have concerning the development.
The third Legoland Park in North America in Goshen, if approved, would mirror the successful concept of the six operating resorts in Florida, California, the United Kingdom, Germany, Malaysia and Denmark. The proposal for the LEGOLAND New York Resort includes a theme park with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions and a 250-room LEGOLAND Hotel. The theme park will be geared toward families with children ages two to 12.
Merlin Entertainments, the developer and operator of the proposed park, is hopeful that it can secure all necessary approvals by January 2017 and open the theme park in early 2019. Merlin is seeking a zone change from the Town of Goshen on 153 acres of the 523 acres it controls on a parcel that abuts Route 17 along Harriman Road between exits 124 and 125. Merlin had considered sites all along the East Coast. Merlin was also mulling properties in New Jersey and Virginia before deciding on pursuing the property off Harriman Road.
The developer will initially invest $350 million in the development of the park and a total of more than $500 million over the first five years of the theme park and resort. Merlin is looking to secure a total of $10 million in incentives from the State of New York. A spokesperson for Empire State Development said that $4.1 million in state funding has been committed thus far to the Legoland project, none of which has been disbursed. It is believed that Legoland has applied for additional state funding this year through the state’s Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process.
In addition, Ussher said that Merlin has met with officials with the New York State Department of Transportation to discuss how best to make improvements to Exits 124 and 125 off of Route 17 to direct traffic most efficiently to the project site. He added that Merlin expects the New York State DOT to fund the necessary road and bridge upgrades adjacent to its property. The developer is also seeking $13.5 million in incentives from the Orange County Industrial Development Agency.
Merlin officials estimate the project will generate a total of $3 million in local taxes and fees each year: $1 million to the Goshen School district, $1.5 million to the Town of Goshen and $500,000 to the county, including other local service fees.
Including annual increases, the taxes and fees will generate approximately $108 million over 30 years of which $38.4 million will go to the Goshen Central School District. Over the course of 30 years, LEGOLAND New York will pay $52.6 million in PILOT payments alone, of which $38.4 million will go to the Goshen Central School District. LEGOLAND New York would also pay Orange County’s hotel tax, generating approximately an additional $850,000 annually to the county. Sales tax receipts at LEGOLAND New York would generate an additional $6 million annually, Merlin officials estimated.
The Goshen project is expected to create approximately 800 construction jobs. In a presentation in June before Goshen Town Board members and Orange County officials, Merlin officials stated that the theme park and resort would be built as a prevailing wage project under a Project Labor Agreement with the local building trades. During peak season, the park when operational will create 500 full-time jobs and 300 part-time jobs. The total project would involve approximately 750,000 square feet of construction and will take two years to construct. Members of the building trades have been very supportive of the proposal during initial municipal meetings.
Ussher said Merlin has been pleased with the local community response to the project thus far, although there has been some opposition mobilized on mainly social media.
On Aug. 9, the project cleared a major hurdle when the Village of Goshen Board of Trustees passed a resolution to provide water and sewer service to the proposed LEGOLAND New York theme park. Based on anticipated usage, LEGOLAND New York will pay the village approximately $900,000 per year once the deal is finalized.
“We are very pleased that the Village of Goshen has confirmed its availability and willingness to supply water and sewer service, which is crucial to the LEGOLAND New York project,” said Phil Royle, head of community and project relations for LEGOLAND New York. “This provides important infrastructure needs for us to move forward.”
Photo Caption: Rendering of the $1.3-billion Montreign Resort Casino