Biz Talk: Wichita business leaders behind development of Castle Rock Casino

By Wichita Business Journal

The announcement Tuesday of plans for the Castle Rock Casino Resort in southeast Kansas comes with a tie to Wichita to the tune of nearly $150 million dollars.

A group of local business leaders are the development’s investors, and following their return from the approval of the plan by the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners in Columbus, they hailed the project as one by Kansans for Kansas.

The investment group includes:

• Brandon and Rodney Steven, Wichita entrepreneurs.

 Dave Burk, Old Town developer.

 Dave Wells of Key Construction.

• Developer W.G. Farha II.

• Ron and Marty Cornejo.

 Mike Vess of Vess Oil Corp.

The resort, which is slated to open by June 1, 2016, will be built by Crossland Construction.

In addition to the gaming, it will include a full-service hotel, restaurants, bars and more amenities.

It will also include a 5,000- to 6,000-seat arena that will host concerts and eventually,Brandon Steven said, a hockey team for the East Coast Hockey League, the same league as the Wichita Thunder.

Steven declined to discuss the specifics of the partners’ investment structure or any financing involved, though he did say it was all private money being used.

He also said the total development cost would come in around $147 million.

When presenting the project for approval, Steven said, the group had to “wow” them.

And he believes it did just that.

Las Vegas-based WhiteSand Gaming is serving as the lead consultant on the project.

WhiteSand CEO Sal Scheri says his firm was definitely “wowed” by the investors plans, a feeling he says will be passed on to patrons once the doors are open.

“They want to create an absolutely amazing casino,” he said.

And though his firm has worked with investors large and small in the casino development business, the Wichita group’s collective vision has been unlike anything he has every come across.

It’s a vision those behind the project believe put them in the right spot.

With some two million people within a 90-mile radius of the new casino, the market is there to attract people from southeast Kansas, as well as from Oklahoma and Missouri.

The group believes the casino will mean 800 to 1,000 permanent jobs and create $20 million in revenue for the state.

It’s also going in a spot where there is a proven market for gaming.

The new casino will be only a couple of blocks away from the Downstream Casino Resort, which is just south of the Kansas-Oklahoma border.

However, Castle Rock will be able to offer table games under Kansas gaming laws, such as craps and roulette, that Downstream cannot.

“We’re going to give people options,” Scheri says.