After five days of teaser ads, Cherokee Nation Businesses and Legends unveiled their plans for a proposed resort and casino in Pope County.
The $225 million Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas will bring “world-class entertainment to the region,” the groups said on Monday (Aug. 12). Some of the proposed amenities include:
- Approximately 50,000 square feet of gaming space accommodating 1,200 slot machines and 32 table games;
- A sportsbook located within a high-end sports bar;
- Luxury hotel with 200 rooms with a resort-style pool, spa and fitness center;
- 15,000 square feet of mixed-use conference and entertainment space accommodating 1,000 people;
- A variety of food options including a food hall, high-end steakhouse, grab & go concept and multiple bar and nightlife options;
- RV park with 100 spots;
- Outdoor water park; and
- Outdoor music venue
“Since submitting our initial application to the Arkansas State Racing Commission in May, we have remained fully committed to the people of Pope County and to taking our proposed development to the next level,” said Shawn Slaton, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses. “Today, with much excitement, we are pleased to unveil our plans. We’ve embraced the community’s feedback and are confident this resort destination brings something for everyone.”
The Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas will be designed by international firm HKS Architects and will showcase architecture influenced by the natural landscape of the Arkansas River Valley, the group said. The development is planned for Russellville, Arkansas, on approximately 130 acres north of Interstate 40 along Nob Hill Road, between Weir Road and Alaskan Trail.
Legends is a stadium-management, sports, and live entertainment company founded in 2008 by Arkansas native and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the late George Steinbrenner, former owner of the New York Yankees.
“From the onset, our goal in partnering with CNB has been to create a resort that truly offers something for everyone and provides an unmatched guest experience,” said Bill Rhoda, President of Legends Global Planning. “Most importantly, Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas will create a positive economic impact of benefit to Pope County and the state of Arkansas.”
“Our teams at CNB and Legends take pride in being dedicated and trustworthy community partners with the proven experience to make this economic development project a success. We remain committed to earning the letters of support from local elected officials,” Slaton said.
Pope County officials had given groups interested until noon on Monday to submit their proposals ahead of a planned Tuesday meeting of the Pope County Quorum Court.
Amendment 100 in the Arkansas Constitution, the recently enacted casino expansion amendment, requires a potential casino operator in Pope County to have an endorsement letter from the county judge and mayor of the city where the casino may locate. In lieu of those letters, a resolution of the quorum court may also meet the local support requirement.
Over the weekend, two groups – the Choctaw Nation and Tri-Peaks/Hard Rock Cafe – said they would not submit casino proposals because of complaints that the local process has not been open or fair enough.
A fourth casino operator, Gulfside Casino Group, previously submitted a proposal to the Arkansas Racing Commission and is appealing its rejection in a meeting planned for Thursday (Aug. 15). Gulfside submitted letters of support from the outgoing Pope County judge and Russellville mayor, but the commission determined that they were invalid, according to its regulatory rules. Additionally, Gulfside re-submitted its earlier proposal to the Pope County Quorum Court for consideration on Tuesday, according to a letter from the group.
A fifth casino group led by the Robert and Ruth Kehl family of Iowa, has submitted a proposal to Pope County officials under its proposed name, River Ridge Casino Resort.
UPDATE: You can read responses from three of the casino operators to the Cherokee Nation as well as how their projects stack up against the Cherokee announcement made today.