Water Levels Delay $347M Casino

Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. was on schedule to complete development of the Baton Rouge, La., project, but low Mississippi River water levels have forced the company to push back the gaming property's debut to the first quarter of 2012.

February 28, 2011
By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor

Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. was on schedule to complete development of its new casino hotel in Baton Rouge, La., in December 2011, but low Mississippi River water levels have forced the company to push back the $357 million gaming property’s debut to the first quarter of 2012.

Confidence in the Louisiana gaming market prompted Pinnacle to expand the plan for the Baton Rouge casino hotel, announcing in September 2010 that the scope of the project would grow significantly, as would the construction budget, which went from an original figure of $250 million to its current $357 million price tag. The 575-acre property, designed by Marnell Architecture and Manning Architects, will feature 30,000 square feet of gaming space, 206 guestrooms, dining outlets, a 1,400-seat multi-purpose event center, outdoor festival grounds and accommodations for 2,400 vehicles.

Pinnacle’s development of the gaming and entertainment destination had been moving along at a steady clip before Mother Nature got involved. Work on the vessel hulls for the Baton Rouge project has already wrapped up and much of the on-site foundation work has reached completion. But the unexpectedly low water levels have prevented workers from bringing in the three completed finished hulls from Bollinger Shipyards in southern Louisiana. However, Pinnacle anticipates that the expected melting of snow up the Mississippi River will soon increase water levels. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service forecasts the same change in conditions, predicting that stream water level elevation above North American Vertical Datum in Baton Rouge will slowly rise over the next two weeks, going from 10.1 feet to 21.9 feet.

Pinnacle is eagerly awaiting rising waters, but activity at the future Baton Rouge gaming complex has not come to a complete standstill in the meantime. Structural steel work for the hotel and elevated concrete structure is still underway. Anthony Sanfilippo, president and CEO of Pinnacle, attested, “Our construction teams are diligently continuing their land-based work and we are prepared to quickly move the three hulls to the site as soon as river levels rise.”