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Riverside Casino Offers Water Park Alternative to Cedar Rapids Casino

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa In a surprise, late-inning move, Riverside Casino owner Dan Kehl said Friday that he will build a $30-million indoor water park with bowling center and event space along the Cedar River here if voters turn down casino gaming for Linn County in next Tuesday's vote.

The last-minute, "family-friendly" proposal is designed to turn voters against a casino in Cedar Rapids, and is coming from the casino owner whose casino in Riverside has spent $600,000 on the Just Say No Casino campaign to defeat the Linn County ballot measure.

Kehl said he won't build the water park facility if Linn County voters approve casino gaming next Tuesday.

The reason: He said his Riverside Casino and Golf Resort stands to lose more than 30 percent of its business if a Cedar Rapids casino is built, and he said such a loss in casino revenue would prevent him from having the money to pursue his water park plan for Cedar Rapids.

Voters in Linn County could approve casino gaming on Tuesday, but the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission then could deny the county a gaming license.

Kehl, though, said it could take a year for the state commission to make a decision on the Cedar Rapids casino, and so he didn't know if in a year from now he would be in a position to build a Cedar Rapids water park or not.

Kehl spoke at a news conference on vacant property at First Street NW just south of Interstate 380, which is a piece of the site in which 60-plus local investors led by Steve Gray have said they intend to buy for their casino.

Kehl's plan is to purchase part of the land that the Gray-led group wants for the casino, and he said he will pay $4 million for it.

Earlier this week, Gray estimated that all of the city-owned land needed for his casino project directly across the Cedar River from downtown might come with an appraised price of $2 million to $3 million.

City officials will seek requests for proposals for any and all comers who want to buy city land, but the proposal that offers the highest price isn't the one that automatically buys the land. The city will be looking for the best development proposal as long as it meets a minimum price set for the land by the city's appraiser.

Kehl said his water park could open in 2014 or 2015.

We'll have more on this story tonight on the KCRG-TV9 News at 5 & 6.

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