Ask area residents what they hope happens to the Newport Grand property, and they’ll likely tell you it should be retained as some sort of recreation, tourist or entertainment center.
It’s a question that will need to be answered, as Newport Grand’s owners, Twin River Management Group, prepares to move the slots parlor to Tiverton, where it will build a full-scale casino. Twin River officials anticipate the Tiverton casino will open sometime in 2018.
Meanwhile, city and Twin River officials are exploring options, as they not only factor in the Newport Grand property, but also land that’s now occupied with roads to nowhere (they were supposed to be part of a cross-island parkway that was never built), and potentially Naval Hospital land.
The relocation of the casino comes at an interesting time for the city, with considerable discussion of a Newport Innovation Hub involving public lands in the North End of the city. Twin River officials had suggested months ago that a good use of the property would be for innovation projects, possibly with knowledge of the city’s vision for developing the Innovation Hub.
Other challenges are the Newport Grand property and the building itself. At least part of the land upon which the slots parlor was built is a former landfill, and the building itself was built as a jai alai fronton, with the concrete stands buried within the building.
So we asked residents what they thought in a poll we recently posted, and put up on Facebook. We had nearly 300 responses, and many of you added your own suggestions.
Here are the options we included, with your responses:
A) Most popular was the suggestion to move the Visitor Center to the property, expand parking and develop a trolley/shuttle service to downtown Newport. Nearly 42 percent of those responding favored this proposal.
B) The second most popular among the options was to turn the facility into a convention center and tourist facility. Nearly 25 percent favored this proposal.
C) Of the remaining options, about 16 percent favored developing the property into an innovation center, concentrating on new technologies; and only 4.3 percent thought it should be developed as a housing complex.
Many of you, in the response to the poll itself or on Facebook, favored some sort of recreation or sports center.
One suggestion on Facebook that received some traction was a suggestion for an indoor sports complex for use by the community and schools that would include a swimming pool, hockey rink, and indoor fields for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey.
That suggestion was supported by several others that recommended development of a community center, a recreational facility, or a sports complex for Salve Regina University.
A few others proposed a convention center and concert venue or a water park. There wasn’t much support for retail, with sporadic mention of Whole Foods, Target or Walmart.
And then possibly the most creative: build a “massive multi-level garage with open grass space on the roof, allowing water views. Open air concert facility facing west. Run a new shuttle train that links into the rail line to the south. Extend the rail line to Perrotti Park. From there tourists can walk into town or board shuttle boats to Fort Adams.”
No doubt that over the next several months, city and Twin River officials will explore numerous potential uses, entertain a number of proposals as they seek to convert the land to a use that has the potential to make up for the thousands of dollars in revenue the city will lose once the slots parlor closes, and becomes a full-scale casino in Tiverton.