Construction of the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady is ahead of schedule. The casino is expected to open in early 2017, Rush Street Gaming CEO Greg Carlin said.
The casino will be open by March of next year and by the end of 2017 earn about $190 million, a little under Rush Street’s third-year projected gaming revenues of $223 million, Carlin said.
“We’re already under construction here,” he said. “We wanted to open this facility as quickly as possible. Our expected opening date is the first quarter of 2017, assuming the weather cooperates with us. That’s actually ahead of schedule.”
Carlin joined other Rush Street Gaming officials — along with representatives from the Galesi Group, local officials and community leaders — for a ceremonial groundbreaking on the Mohawk Harbor site Wednesday morning.
Foundation work already is underway on the $330 million Rivers Casino — a joint venture between Rush Street and Galesi — on the 60-acre old Alco site off Erie Boulevard.
Mary Cheeks, general manager of the Rivers Casino, said the casino would feature 1,150 slot machines, 63 table games, 15 poker tables and an adjacent 163-room hotel. The casino hotel name has not yet been announced.
“The casino will also offer new food and beverage options, including a marketplace, a steakhouse along with an outdoor patio, entertainment lounge, day spa, banquet facility and plenty of waterfront green space,” she said.
Cheeks, who now serves as CFO of Rush Street’s Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, said the operator’s search for employees in the area would start immediately.
The casino is projected to create 1,400 construction jobs and 1,200 permanent jobs, according to Rush.
“We’re putting out all of our jobs online within the next two to three weeks,” she said. “We have to understand our workforce to develop training programs.”
Cheeks said a website specifically targeted for Rivers Casino employment would be up and running by the end of the month. The casino now has an informational website at www.riverscasinoandresort.com.
Rush Street is partnering with Schenectady County Community College on a dealer-training program, Carlin said.
Carlin said Rush would bring a “small number” of employees from other Rush Street casinos to work at the new Schenectady casino, but that most employees will come from the region.
“We will have some experienced folks here,” he said. “In Philadelphia we hired about half the dealers from Atlantic City and half were new dealers who never worked at a casino before and had to be trained.”
Rush Street operates three casinos now — the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia and the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Rush Street has opened office space at Galesi’s Center City building on State Street in downtown, which will serve as an information center during the construction of the casino.
The Rivers Casino was approved for a license by the state Gaming Commission at the end of December. The commission also OK’ed licenses for the Lago Resort and Casino in Tyre, Seneca County, and Montreign Resort Casino in Thompson, Sullivan County.
In addition to the casino, Galesi is undertaking a $150 million development on the brownfield that includes housing, another hotel, office and retail space, and a 50-boat-slip harbor.
Work is ongoing along the Mohawk River with construction of a 124-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel by BBL of Albany and a 204-unit apartment building by Galesi called The Riverhouse Apartments.
David Buicko, COO of Galesi, said the Marriott would open its doors by October and the apartments would be available to lease shortly after that. The harbor along with biking and walking paths are already carved out on site.
Buicko said the next step would be construction of an office building and townhouses.
“We have invested over $35 million into the project to date,” he said. “We already have some retail and office tenants we’ll be announcing soon.”
The unusually warm February weather brought rain on Wednesday, forcing the groundbreaking to be held under a large tent with approximately 200 guests crammed inside.
Francesco Galesi, CEO of the Galesi Group, was at the groundbreaking alongside Buicko. Galesi rarely visits Schenectady, but has made a few appearances at casino-related events.”
“Francesco had the vision, the perseverance and the foresight to do so many things not only in the Capital Region but also on a much bigger scale,” Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said. “It’s an exciting day. We have a great team here."
Also at the groundbreaking was the Mallozzi family — siblings Bobby, Christine and John — who will operate the restaurants and banquet facility at the casino.
Schenectady County Legislature Chairman Tony Jasenski said he believes the casino is a "home run.” He said the Mohawk Harbor project compliments the revitalization efforts downtown.
“I’m very proud to say that with the addition of this project our unified economic development team has brought in just under $1 billion in investment into Schenectady County,” he said.
Buicko said next year would be a big year for building openings on site.
“We don’t want people to come into a construction site,” he said. “Everything is going up together.”
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, [email protected] or @HRViccaro on Twitter.