Running Aces Casino and Racetrack plans to build a 74-room hotel on its Anoka County campus as it moves to position itself as a premier entertainment center.
"We're very confident about the project," said Taro Ito, president and chief executive of Running Aces, in an interview. "We are very, very excited because we feel that this is going to really position Running Aces as a unique property."
The four-level building will sit next to the existing casino and racetrack in Columbus, and will offer standard rooms as well as extended-stay and VIP suites. Amenities include a complimentary breakfast and an indoor swimming pool.
"Everybody is always thinking fun is down south," Ito said, referring to the south metro where there are attractions such as Treasure Island Resort and Casino, Mystic Lake, and rival racetrack Canterbury Park. "This is just the beginning of something big, and it's really going to move us to the next level in terms of awareness."
Running Aces has signed an agreement with Brooklyn Park-based GrandStay Hospitality to manage the hotel.
"GrandStay Hospitality LLC is very excited to bring our brand of exceptional lodging to the Running Aces venue," said Jon Kennedy, GrandStay brand president, in a statement. "The GrandStay Hotel & Suites will complement the many entertainment choices offered to guests at the casino, racetrack, restaurants, trout pond and more."
The city has already approved the conditional-use permit for the new hotel. Several other approvals including by the Rice Creek Watershed District are still needed. The design for the hotel is still not completely settled. The Minneapolis architecture firm Cuningham Group and Minnetonka-based group Truman Howell Architects are working together on the hotel.
While most of the project will be centered on the new building, there will also be improvements to the other areas of the casino to ensure that the existing and new structures appear seamless.
The complete budget hasn't been decided on yet, Ito said. It's also unclear when construction will start because winter is fast approaching and there are outside factors such as nearby reconstruction of the Hwy. 97 bridge and work being done on a freeway frontage road that could affect the project.
Running Aces opened in 2008 and lost $4 million during its first racing season. Those troubles eventually led Black Diamond Commercial Finance LLC, a Connecticut-based investment firm, to take ownership. In the last two years, business has improved, Ito said.
And 2016 has been Running Aces' most successful year. Racetrack attendance is up and the handle, or amount people wagered, off-track during simulcasts of races has risen more than $1 million this year compared to last.
"All of the success is important and financials are better," Ito said. "Banks are definitely more willing to participate in these projects."
The city of Columbus recently completed a feasibility study and determined a hotel would be beneficial for the area.
At the same time, Running Aces has heard from guests that a hotel would be a positive addition to its site. In the gaming industry, hotel accommodations are normally one of the most preferred amenities, Ito said.
"We are hearing two demands, one from the city and one from the customers that a hotel would be a very viable project," he said.