LANSING – The Women’s Expo is expected to draw 12,000 to the Lansing Center this weekend, and there were plenty among Saturday’s diverse crowd opining that a nearby casino may rescue the city-reliant center.
“It would be a destination,” Jerry Carpenter said of the Michigan Avenue address where gamblers will find eating options when their arms and legs tire from pursuing jackpots. “The casino would be an added bonus.”
A federal court holds hostage the $245 million downtown Lansing project, debating whether the U.S. government can take property into trust so the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians can build the off-reservation casino to be owned and operated by the tribe.
The 125,000-square-foot gaming den in the heart of the city’s entertainment district would wrap around the Lansing Center, the promise of its tables perhaps magnetizing its more elderly neighbor.
The Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority manages the Lansing Center, and authority President Scott Keith has high hopes for the casino.
“People want to be around entertainment options when they go to conventions or trade shows," he said, predicting an uptick in local business once the casino opens its doors.
For now, it’s business as usual. The Lansing Center has relied on a city handout every year of its operation, Keith said. This year, budget documents show a subsidy of $756,284.
Because predicting future success can be like hurling a boomerang, Keith cannot say how quickly a casino could turn the center’s bottom line black or bump its annual attendance past 375,000.
Tracy Sluyter, 33, of Dewitt, visited Firekeepers Casino nearly every day when it opened in Battle Creek. She doesn’t want a casino in Lansing. Crime, she predicted, will worsen.
However, “I would still come to the Women’s Expo,” she said, resting at a table with her mom, sister and daughter.
The Women’s Expo is a woman’s dream bazaar. Lansing’s Feb. 1 thru Feb. 3 event featured almost 200 booths. Upon paying the $9 entrance, women could pamper their mind, body and soul. There were tastings and waxings; shopping and presentations.
Denise Kohler-Kolesar, president of Kohler Expos, estimated the event raised $100,000 for the Lansing Center’s coffers. She holds her expos mainly in West Michigan and none of them are held near a casino.
“I don’t think this casino is an answer to the economy,” she said. “Do I see why Lansing might want it? Absolutely. They bring people into town.”
Sonia Gonzales makes an annual trek to the Lansing Center because of the Women’s Expo. She became an expo fan when a favorite soap opera star traveled to the event in the late 1990s.
She knows the vices associated with casinos. She can ignore the negatives because of the 1,500 full-time casino jobs promised. Gonzales is a Lansing Community College student hedging her bets on medical billing studies for employment.
“Anything for more jobs,” she insisted. “We definitely need the jobs.”
After the casino’s groundbreaking, it could take 18 months to build the casino and the parking decks, according to a City of Lansing report located at http://www.lansingmi.gov. The tribe’s blog detailing the casino project is at http://lansingkewadin.wordpress.com.
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