Business partners Gary Kirke and Mike Richards have filed a request in Urbandale that could lead to the development of a casino, hotel, conference center, upscale bowling alley and multiple dining establishments.
The development would be located on roughly 85 acres north of Interstates 35/80 at 100th Street and Northwest 54th Avenue, according to documents filed Friday with the city of Urbandale.
The land, on the southwest corner of the intersection, is now owned by Frampton Farms Inc., whose principal is George Frampton, according to city documents. The property is entirely in Urbandale, although the city limits of both Johnston and Grimes are north of Northwest 54th Avenue.
Kirke and Richards are partners in Fair Grounds LLC, which placed an option to buy the property on Aug. 30, and the duo are also partners in Wild Rose Entertainment LLC, which owns casinos in Emmetsburg and Clinton, as well as other companies.
The property’s zoning does not currently allow for a casino, and Urbandale City Administrator A.J. Johnson said the property is currently zoned for office use, although there is a golf dome on the land right now. The Urbandale Planning and Zoning Commission has scheduled an Oct. 8 hearing on the proposal.
Urbandale Mayor Robert Andeweg said Monday afternoon that he hasn't had a chance to review the proposal since it was filed on Friday afternoon. “I think it’s too early to comment on that either way. I'd at least like to see the proposal,” he said.
Andeweg said the city, at this point, is just being asked to rezone the land to allow the uses of casinos, restaurants and other entertainment businesses.
The location is just north of the interstate on 100th Street, and the city of Urbandale has a long-range goal to add an interchange at 100th, although that plan has not been approved by the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Brian J. Ohrilko, administrator for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, said Monday, "This is kind of the first time we've heard about this."
He said there is not a gambling license available and he was uncertain that the five-member commission is inclined to add gambling licenses in Iowa.
“The last time the commission went through a licensing process was in 2009, and they said they wanted to wait at least a period of time before they had the discussion again," he said. "It's kind of premature to even discuss what the commission would want to do.”
Ohrilko said the only open license is now in Woodbury County, where the casino no longer has an operating agreement with its nonprofit organization, so its gambling license has been suspended. But, he added that there was no discussion of moving that license.
And, he added, he believes Polk County would have to have a referendum to approve another casino before the state took any action to approve a license.
When Johnson was asked if he thought Urbandale elected officials would favor a casino in town, he said, "I don't know."
“My guess is there will be lots of questions,” said Johnson, who was the city administrator in Muscatine when that city was dealing with riverboat gambling licenses. "There will have to be at least two public hearings, one before the Planning and Zoning Commission and one before the City Council. I’m sure there will be people there for it and against it."