September 19, 2007
Las Vegas casino and laundry workers started strike preparations Tuesday, when members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 began signing up for strike benefits at a mobile station set up in downtown Las Vegas. More than 8,000 union members voted overwhelmingly last week to authorize their negotiating committees to call for a strike if negotiations don't lead to new contracts. Currently some 10,000 casino and laundry employees are working under contract extensions that can be terminated by either side with seven days' notice. A strike would affect 14 casinos in downtown and the Strip, including Binion's, El Cortez, Fitzgerald's, Four Queens, Fremont, Golden Gate, Golden Nugget, Las Vegas Club, Las Vegas Hilton, Main Street, Plaza, Tropicana and Western, as well as the two industrial laundries.

Project Hometown -- a $1.1 billion plan for a new performing arts center, a new events arena and the renovation of the Citrus Bowl stadium in Orlando -- might have hit a few roadblocks. Local hotelier Harris Rosen, who owns seven properties in town, is seeking 30,000 signatures to amend the county charter so the public would have to vote on any public spending of $25 million or more on a sports arena, performing arts venue or stadium. "I believe politicians should not be deciding what to do with millions of dollars of public funds," Rosen told M&C, adding he has almost 5,000 signatures so far. Among his objections, Rosen says he would rather see the tax dollars go to marketing Orlando to improve lagging occupancy rates. "For the meeting and conventions industry, these new community venues mean additional opportunities for the attendees," responds Heather Allebaugh, constituent correspondent for Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer. "Orlando's tourism industry as a whole has supported these projects -- from Disney and Universal Orlando to the Hotel & Lodging Association. They also have a vested interest in hotel occupancy rates, but see the projects as an important investment in the Orlando community." If Rosen acquires the number of signatures needed, the question will appear on the November ballot, possibly delaying the venues' construction. The project was approved by the Orange County Commission in July.

Revel Entertainment Group applied for a Coastal Area Facility Review Act permit and filed site plans with the Atlantic City Division of Planning last week for a beachfront casino entertainment resort on 20 acres of land along the boardwalk. Revel's plans include two 1,900-room hotel towers, 150,000 square feet of casino space and 500,000 square feet of dining, retail and entertainment space, expected to open in 2011. Meeting space details have not been determined yet.

Responding to multiple proposals to build casino resorts in Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick has announced a plan to auction off three casino licenses, each for a different region of the state. The plan still needs approval from the state legislature. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and the operators of the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut have each advanced plans for $1 billion casino resorts, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and another Wampanoag tribe on the island of Martha's Vineyard have each discussed separate plans for additional resorts. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which still could build a casino on tribal lands even if the governor's licensing proposal is rejected, already has signed an agreement with the town of Middleborough, south of Boston, to support the building of a casino there if and when the tribe gets necessary state and federal approvals. The tribe has expressed interest in opening a casino by 2010.

The 337-room JW Marriott Grand Rapids (Mich.) opens Friday with 20,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel is a few blocks from DeVos Place, an SMG-managed convention center with 250,000 square feet of meeting space. Features of the hotel include 616, a fine-dining restaurant; wired and wireless Internet access in all guest rooms, and a helipad for helicopter access.

A lawsuit holding up the expansion project at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has been decided in favor of the airport and the city. The United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the city could acquire land that currently holds a cemetery but is in the projected path of a runway expansion. To date, the O'Hare Modernization Project has awarded $750 million worth of contracts and expects to commission $615 million more next year.

The Hyatt Regency Dallas, Reunion Tower and historic Union Station will undergo a combined $55 million transformation. At the hotel, the 15,000-square-foot Cumberland Hall will be upgraded, as will all 1,122 guest rooms, with work being completed by year's end. The Hyatt offers 160,000 square feet of meeting space. Reunion Tower will close down Nov. 16 through fall 2008 while its three levels are reconfigured. The Antares restaurant and The Dome lounge will be combined on the top level, and the second level will become event space. The third level, the observation area, will be given a facelift. Interior renovations were begun in July at Union Station, where event space is being added on the second floor.

Also in Dallas, the 1,606-room Hilton Anatole is beginning the second phase of a multiyear renovation project. About $45 million will be spent to refurbish most public areas, the 700 guest rooms in the Tower and 126,304 square feet of the property's 330,000 square feet of meeting space. The project's first phase renovated the 900 Atrium guest rooms and turned the Stemmons Auditorium into the 8,300-square-foot Stemmons Ballroom. Phase two will be completed by the end of the year.

The 116-room Hotel Le Parc-Trocadero Paris will be rebranded the Renaissance Parc Trocadero next spring. A complete renovation of the guest rooms, 12 meeting rooms, public areas and fitness center currently is under way. The property will be the third Renaissance hotel in Paris and the eighth in Marriott International's portfolio of properties in the French capital.