Casino Announces Major Project for Evansville, Ind.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- Casino Aztar announced on Tuesday plans to build a $40 million entertainment district in the city's downtown by the end of next summer.

Officials said the Aztar plan would bring the casino's total investment in the city to more than $200 million and will include a 100-room hotel with rates starting at $100, a Jillian's billiard club and Ri Ra Irish Pub & Restaurant.

The announcement came a month after state regulators approved plans for another southern Indiana casino in French Lick.

Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel and Jim Brown, Aztar's president and general manager, held a news conference to make the announcement just hours after the city approved a new lease agreement for the casino.

The city's Redevelopment Commission approved amendments to the casino lease, which include one payment of $15 million and a $500,000 contribution to build a municipal dock on the Ohio River that will be home to a World War II-era warship when it arrives in Evansville this fall.

Brown said a second phase of construction to be completed in 2007 will include a dining and entertainment venue.

Three consecutive Evansville mayors have identified the riverfront area around the casino as an area that should be developed as an entertainment district.