Downtown Rockford is the location a coalition of community advocates has targeted for a proposed entertainment district to include a casino and an aquarium.

The Rock River West casino group recently announced that the proposed casino would be located in Rockford’s “Waterpower District,” adjacent to the anticipated Amtrack train station and Amerock Embassy Suites Hotel and Convention Center on the South Main corridor.

According to Fox 39, the coalition of community advocates in northern Illinois says that the proposed location will provide easy access for visitors due to its close proximity -10 minutes- of U.S. 20, I-90 and the Chicago Rockford International Airport.

Community enrichment:

Commenting on the plans for a casino and aquarium in Downtown Rockford, Stacy Bernardi from the Rock River West advocacy group, said…

“This new Entertainment District will enrich our community while supporting the entire downtown destination. We envision that this project location can definitively grow more entertainment events for the BMO Harris Bank Center, Coronado Theater and Davis Park with existing and added restaurants, existing and new retail, and new entertainment attractions in and around the South Main Corridor and the overall River District.”

Meanwhile, Board President of the Rockford Aquarium, Gayle Marzorati, said…

“The presence of the Rockford Aquarium in the Rockford Main Street corridor along the Waterfront will be a further catalyst for downtown development andan enhancement to other museums and new entertainment tourist attractions.”

New employment expectations:

The Rock River West Advocacy Group’s, Victory Bell, added…

“The Aquarium together with this urban casino will play a vital role as an economic stimulus which will help the City of Rockford in its completion of the plan to develop downtown and South Main Street Corridor.”

“The greatest concentration for underemployed and unemployed is on the west side, there is a willing and ready workforce within walking distance. The casino and hotel once completed is expected to employ between 600 to 1000 people, along with the Aquarium employing of 120 to 200 full and part time employees,” said, Bell.

Due next month:

All proposals must be received by Friday, August 16 to be considered by the city of Rockford to be submitted to the Illinois Gaming Board, according to the news agency.

If a license is granted, a temporary casino site could be set up by the end of this year, with the permanent casino to be constructed with two years.

Earlier this month, a separate casino proposal for the site of the former Clock Tower Resort at East State Street was announced by Hard Rock International.

Illinois gambling expansion:

Late last month, Illinois Governor, J.B. Pritzker, signed bills authorizing a $45 billion construction plan courtesy of revenue from significant tax hikes on gas and cigarettes and massive gambling expansion, including brand new casinos in the city of Chicago and the suburbs, and legalized sports betting. The gambling expansion, along with cigarette and gas tax increases that both took effect on July 1, 2019, will serve to fuel the “Rebuild Illinois” capital spending plan, that Gov. Pritzker called “the largest, most robust capital plan in state history.”

Hard Rock proposal:

During the announcement,  Jim Allen, chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Hard Rock International, was a bit closed-mouthed regarding proposal details. During the brief Q & A with media, he said that a project estimate would be announced when they submit their response to the request for proposal (RFP). Allen did say that the site in Rockford was “prime real estate” due to “its history as the center point of entertainment,” and having access to major highways.

He added that the development would provide for approximately 1,000 to 1,200 permanent jobs and about 1,000 construction jobs almost 100% of which would be local contractors, with a preference given to local residents and that phase one could be expected to be completed within 12-14 months.