Des Plaines, Rivers Casino finalize deal to reopen downtown theater

  • Des Plaines and Rivers Casino have finalized a cost-sharing agreement to reopen the Des Plaines Theatre. The casino will contribute up to $2 million to the purchase, renovation and operational costs of the historic building.

      Des Plaines and Rivers Casino have finalized a cost-sharing agreement to reopen the Des Plaines Theatre. The casino will contribute up to $2 million to the purchase, renovation and operational costs of the historic building. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2017

 
 
Updated 5/23/2018 3:57 PM

It's official: Des Plaines and Rivers Casino have inked a contract to share the costs of reopening the city's historic downtown theater.

Aldermen approved terms of what has been -- until now -- a nonbinding memorandum of understanding to revitalize the Des Plaines Theatre.

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As part of the deal, Rivers Casino will pitch in half the cost up to $1 million to pay for the building and other expenses related to the acquisition, including legal fees, environmental testing and title issues.

The city previously agreed to buy the property at 1476 Miner St. from former owner Dhitu Bhagwakar for about $1.3 million.

The casino also will contribute half the costs up to $1 million to renovate the theater and $50,000 annually for the first five years of operation to pay for education programming.

"The theater renovation is about the revitalization of downtown Des Plaines and the continued growth of the community," Corey Wise, general manager of Rivers Casino, said in a statement. "The mayor and city have a vision that a renewed theater will generate activity and pride in the downtown business district, leading to additional business growth. It is exciting that this project is finally becoming a reality."

Wise said the funding for educational programming is intended to offer the community a place in the theater.

"The renewed Des Plaines Theater will belong to the community, and we are happy to play a supporting role in this transformation effort," Wise said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The casino does have a few perks in the contract. It's allowed exclusive use of the theater for up to eight events each year. The city also is required to incorporate Rivers Casino branding into interior signage and promotional material.

The theater has been shuttered since February 2014, when the city deemed the building uninhabitable because of code violations. The city will own the property after a due diligence period and finalization of sale expected at the end of June.

"We're finding out what we thought we'd find out," City Manager Mike Bartholomew said. "The building is pretty old, and it needs a lot of repairs."

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