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US developer sweetens Madrid casino project with a beach and more arts

Regional government turned down The Cordish Companies €2.2 billion development in March

After the regional government of Madrid turned down The Cordish Companies’ plan for a casino and resort in Madrid in March, the US real estate developer and entertainment operator has come back with a new proposal that would include more sports and cultural facilities.

Rendition of the proposed beach and lagoon.
Rendition of the proposed beach and lagoon.

The regional government of Madrid turned down The Cordish Companies project, originally proposed in December, for three main reasons: it questioned its economic viability, adding that some €340 million would need to be invested in infrastructure, and finally that the initial phase lacked the cultural and sports facilities required to make it eligible for fast-tracking as a CID Integral Development Center, which provides tax breaks and other advantages, the route Cordish had requested.

Cordish is offering a six-hectare artificial lagoon with beach that would offer surfing, kayaking and volleyball

Cordish is now offering to include a six-hectare artificial lagoon with beach that would offer surfing, kayaking and beach volleyball.

Joe Weinberg, the US group’s CEO, says in documents presented to the regional government of Madrid seen by EL PAÍS that the company has been working for “months” to “clear up any doubts.” The proposed location for the complex is Torres de la Alameda, near Alcalá de Henares, some 30 kilometers east of Madrid.

The regional government, headed by the Popular Party’s (PP) Cristina Cifuentes, has one month to analyze the new offer.

Weinberg says the company is still committed to an investment of €2.2 billion, and that no subsidies will be required. It adds that it is ready to begin the first phase of the project, with an estimated cost of €587 million.

Cordish’s latest proposals increase the central area of the complex to 92 hectares (70% of the total of 134 hectares) to include the artificial lagoon and beach. The construction of the east and west areas, which would cost an additional €1.6 billion, although covering a smaller area, would be developed later, although Weinberg insists the company is committed to fully implementing its plan. In fact it says it would spend a total of €3 billion if the complex is successful. It predicts it would attract an additional 1.6 million tourists to Madrid each year.

A Cordish leisure complext in Texas.

Cordish says that aside from a 500-room hotel and convention center with capacity for 8,000 people, the six-hectare lagoon would be free for guests:  visitors would be charged. The company insists that strict environmental standards would apply to construction of the lagoon as well as to the rest of the complex. Cycle and walking routes would also be set up in the countryside around the complex. The new proposals also mention “training with instructors” and for yoga sessions.

In terms of the arts, Cordish says there will be installations for indoor and outdoor concerts, theater, music, dance, exhibitions, festivals and other cultural events. There are also plans for a circus, movie theater and museums as well as gastronomy.

“There will be a daily program of cultural activities: music, sports competitions, theater. There will be something to attract the public every day,” says Weinberg. A casino and gaming rooms will occupy between 10% and 15% of the complex.

There will be a daily program of cultural activities: music, sports competitions, theater

CEO Joe Weinberg

The regional government of Madrid has estimated the cost of providing infrastructure for the complex at €340 million. Weinberg says no “subsidies” will be needed and that despite expected visitor numbers of nine million a year, no major upgrade of transport and other infrastructure will be required. Most of the €340 million would be spent on rail access, while Cordish says the access road to the complex would not need widening . He estimates the infrastructure costs to Cordish at €15 million. The company says transport links to the airport, nearby commuter train lines, the IFEMA conference center and other key locations, would be provided.

“We don’t see any rational reason why the project would be rejected,” says Weinberg, adding: “The project is a great opportunity for Madrid, which would become a global leader in the sector; no investment is needed [by the regional government of Madrid], it will create jobs [up to 56,000], along with billions in economic activity; furthermore, we are the only company that has requested a CID, we are the only people prepared to invest money, enthusiasm and passion in the project.”

In late 2013, US casino operator Sheldon Adelson abandoned plans to build Europe’s largest gambling and leisure complex in Madrid.  After months of talks with the regional and central governments, Sheldon’s Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS) finally decided against presenting a formal investment offer of $30 billion to build and develop a series of resorts in the Madrid dormitory town of Alcorcón.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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