If voters statewide and in Tiverton approve what amounts to a relocation of Newport Grand to Tiverton, it could open up significant development in that part of Newport and recapture acres of land that now sits useless at the base of the Newport Bridge.
The City and Twin River Worldwide Holdings are committed to working together to assure re-development of the property if voters approve the casino. If the referendum (local or statewide) fail, Twin River is committed to continue to operate Newport Grand.
If the referenda are approved, Twin River management expects the new Tiverton Casino to open in July 2018, leaving Newport to make up hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue that it now realizes from gaming proceeds from the slots parlor.
“The only what if question that we are concerned about at this point would be how we make up revenue for the benefit of our taxpayers,” said Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano.
It’s been a question that officials have pondered since voters in Newport rejected table games at Newport Grand, and after Twin Rivers bought the facility.
“Shortly after Twin Rivers bought Newport Grand they were looking into the possibility of relocating and made us aware of their plans,” Napolitano said.
“There was a lot of understanding,” said John Taylor, chairman of the board of Twin River Worldwide Holdings, the owner of Twin Rivers, Newport Grand and several other gaming properties nationally. “They (city officials) recognized we needed to try to do something to compete with the competition that was coming.”
That competition is the advent of gaming in Massachusetts and a potential destination casino in Taunton. The Tiverton casino, while providing table games along with slots, would be considerably smaller than any Taunton casino.
Voters statewide and in Tiverton will vote on Nov. 8 whether to approve moving the casino license from Newport to Tiverton.
“If the vote to move to Tiverton is approved they (Twin River) would work with us,” Napolitano said. Taylor said Twin River is committed to do just that.
Newport Grand sits on 23 acres on the rise of a hill with spectacular views of the Newport Bridge, and in close proximity to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. Across from Newport Grand is a hotel that presumably has relied upon Newport Grand for a significant portion of its guests.
Part of the land on which Newport Grand is located, Taylor said, had once been used as a landfill, which he said should not be an impediment to any future development.
The city, Taylor said, has asked Twin River if it wasn’t successful finding a buyer for the facility, whether it would agree to “tear the building down,” which Taylor said Twin River has agreed.
There are those Taylor said who envision the current building becoming some sort of convention center, but he and Napolitano suggest that the real future may be an innovation hub.
After the vote, Napolitano said, the city would explain its “vision for the North End to include new and innovative business working in technology which included cyber-security, new forms of energy and technology start-ups, which would employ the workers of the future.”
“The city is thinking some sort of innovation hub, leveraging off the defense industry in that part of town,” Taylor said.
And, there’s more.
The federal government, he said, is considering “getting rid” of the old Naval Hospital, offering more prospects for the city.
And then, there’s the ramps to nowhere.
At the end of the Newport Bridge there are “a lot of off ramps to nowhere,” Taylor said, off ramps that were supposed to be part of a Cross Island Highway that was never built.
The city, he said, is looking “to re-claim that land and redesign the off ramps.” That, coupled with Newport Grand’s 23 acres, apparently spells opportunity.