“I’m on the same limb”

logoLatest post in a series about Wind Creek Casinologo

ref: “Wind Creek will be focused on becoming good neighbors in Bethlehem”

Gadfly,

Please move over, I’m on the same limb, and I am sure there will be others. What difference it will make is a guess, but you’ve articulated my emotional and rational thoughts on point.

Deni Thurman-Eyer

Gadfly is reminded of the Emily Dickinson lines:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you—Nobody—Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise—you know!

“Wind Creek will be focused on becoming good neighbors in Bethlehem”

logoLatest post in a series about Wind Creek Casinologo

Jon Harris, “At grand opening, Wind Creek pledges to reinvest in Bethlehem property. In fact, hotel construction could start in early 2020.” Morning Call, October 10, 2019.

Keeping an eye on Wind Creek. Holding my breath a bit.

Especially this week with the Touchstone Festival, Gadfly has been thinking a lot about Bethlehem’s nature, culture, history, heritage, personality, identity, character — and future.

He doesn’t see a third-of-a-mile-long adventure and water park — once described by Wind Creek something like the “premier destination in the Northeast” — in that future.

Or should he say he doesn’t want to see it in Bethlehem’s future, because it looks like a sure thing.

Wind Creek seems determined.

Looks like it will be here.

Gadfly’s resistance to that reality is visceral not intellectual, not logical.

A waterpark in the No. 2 Machine Shop? Feels like dancing on a grave.

In a way his repulsion is beneath explanation, his own explanation.

And he hears no one else expressing anxiety.

It’s lonely on this limb.

For sure, we don’t want barren brownfields. Given the alternative, we should be glad for the Sands, for Wind Creek. Huge tax money. Lots of Union construction jobs (you are in Gadfly’s head, Councilman Callahan). Visitors pouring dollars into the local economy. 2,360 employees and growing. And Wind Creek throwing money at non-profits. That’s a “good neighbor,” right?

He knows all this.

Why can’t Gadfly be happy? Why so conflicted, so cranky?

Makes no sense.

Gadfly wasn’t Gadfly when we were going through the Sands pregnancy.

He was bothered, but only out of the corner of his eye. He didn’t feel involved.

Now as a toddler-Gadfly he feels involved.

Granted, he’s come to accommodation with the casino. In fact, it’s virtually invisible to him. He’s barely aware of it. It’s not in his world. We don’t bother each other. We co-exist. We live in separate spheres. Alternate realities.

Perhaps the same thing will happen with the hotels and water park.

But it feels like on a mega-scale what he sees too often in front of our City committees on building-scale — an “outside” developer plunking in something for his gain that does not fit our grain.

When Gadfly came to Bethlehem 50 years ago, he was proud that it was known as the home of moral might and technological might.

Strange combination but serious stuff.

And now we might be advertised to the world for a waterpark that is the premier destination in the Northeast.

A playground.

Doesn’t compute.

Gadfly waits for the slap upside the head.

Help him.

Talk him down.

Stage an intervention.

It’s lonely on this limb.

—–

Jon Harris, “At grand opening, Wind Creek pledges to reinvest in Bethlehem property. In fact, hotel construction could start in early 2020.” Morning Call, October 10, 2019.

  • [Wind Creek’s] to-do list . . . includes a proposal to transform the No. 2 Machine Shop via a $250 million infusion and a $90 million plan to build another hotel, with potential for a groundbreaking on the hotel early next year.
  • Those plans have Wind Creek and local officials excited about the 10-year-old property’s future — and they said as much during a grand-opening ceremony on Thursday just outside the casino’s main entrance.
  • “Bethlehem is the jewel of the Lehigh Valley and as Wind Creek thrives, we’ll continue to shine,” state Sen. Lisa Boscola said, adding that she believes the crucial property, built upon what was once the country’s largest brownfield, is in good hands with Wind Creek.
  • Boscola, State Sen. Pat Browne and Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez also reflected on the past, back 15 years ago when it was far from a sure thing that Bethlehem would even allow casino development. Donchez was then a councilman, actually casting the deciding vote to allow the project in the city.
  • “There’s no question in my mind that was the right vote,” Donchez said.
  • But Thursday was more about the future, something ushered in with a tribal dance and song, fireworks, appearances by Emeril Lagasse and Buddy Valastro and a charity-giving contest. In the contest, in which 10 area nonprofits were pre-selected and then the public voted to decide the winner, Wind Creek Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Carr announced Via of the Lehigh Valley as the winner of $25,000. He then announced Wind Creek had decided to give the remaining nine nonprofits a prize of $10,000 each.
  • Tribal Chair Stephanie Bryan said the tribe and Wind Creek will be focused on becoming good neighbors in Bethlehem, planning to build on the legacy Las Vegas Sands Corp. left in the city and to create additional job opportunities beyond the property’s current employment of about 2,360.
  • Arthur Mothershed, Wind Creek’s vice president of business development, said plans are moving along for a 276-room hotel and another 42,000 square feet of meeting space near the existing 282-room hotel. He said Wind Creek believes it can break ground on the hotel shortly after Jan. 1, a project that will take about 14 months to complete.
  • More fluid is the plan to turn the No. 2 Machine Shop, which is a third of a mile long, into a 300,000-square-foot adventure and water park that also would include a roughly 400-room hotel. Mothershed said that, conservatively, Wind Creek is probably eight months away from getting the design to the point where it can think about a groundbreaking.

Non-profits vie for Wind Creek $$,$$$

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

(Latest posts in a series about Wind Creek Casino)

I may be wrong, but, if you wait a day in-between, it looks like you can vote more than once . . .

Jessica Johnson, “Vote now to pick which local nonprofit gets $25,000 in Wind Creek Bethlehem contest.” Morning Call, September 23, 2019.

Wind Creek Bethlehem is giving $25,000 to a local nonprofit organization as part of its grand opening ceremonies in October. The recipient will be chosen by a public vote today through Sept. 30, according to a news release from Wind Creek.The 10 organizations were picked based on previous partnerships and community relationships built over the last decade. They are:

ArtsQuest

Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley

Hogar Crea – Women’s Center

Junior League of the Lehigh Valley

St. Luke’s University Health Network

The Foundation For The Bethlehem Area School District

Turning Point Lehigh Valley

Via of the Lehigh Valley

Victory House of Lehigh Valley

YWCA Bethlehem

These local organizations were asked to submit a 30- to 60-second video showcasing their organization, who they are, what they do and how they would spend the money. Each video was posted in random order on Wind Creek Bethlehem’s official Facebook page Sept. 13-22.

The winner will be announced Oct. 10 during Wind Creek Bethlehem’s grand opening ceremonies.

To learn more, go to www.windcreekbethlehem.com/about-us/Giving-Back.html, or go to bit.ly/WCBCharityContest to view all the submissions and vote.

Wind Creek Bethlehem actively builds mutually beneficial partnerships with service organizations, non-profits, educational organizations, and similar groups within our service areas. We will consider ongoing funding as well as requests for projects and events that address people, community, and the earth in the community that we call home.

Festival UnBound

Only a mild wind from the Wind Creek sale

(Latest posts in a series about Wind Creek Casino and the budget)

We knew it was coming. The City once projected a windfall of $5-6m from the sale of the Sands to Wind Creek. But wise Gadfly followers were quick to say that the sale would be structured in such a way to favor Wind Creek. And so it turned out. The City realized but $317,000.

But the projected windfall was not factored into the 2019 budget except in a kind of “wish list.” And on Tuesday Council moved to begin the approval to do some tidying of the budget now that the sale is complete.

Key thing for us to know is that “Since 2013, Bethlehem’s dug itself out of deficit spending, built its cash reserves and earned an A+ bond rating, [City Business Manager Eric] Evans noted. The city currently has more than the 15 percent S&P wants to see in savings.”

In other words, the City is in pretty good shape financially. Tip o’ the hat!

Many Gadfly followers were hoping for more of a kick for such projects as the pedestrian bridge and the Rose Garden from the Casino Transfer Tax, but “The city found grants and other funding sources for projects like improvements to the Rose Garden, a pedestrian bridge study and security upgrades to City Hall.”

Gadfly is always curious about financial manipulations. Here’s how the deal was structured in Wind Creek’s favor. Sigh.

“The difference between the city’s initial projections of as much as $6.5 million and the actual transfer tax of just over $300,000, boiled down to how the casino deal was structured. It allowed for only the value of the underlying land to be computed in the transfer tax calculation. To enable Las Vegas Sands Corp. to sell 100% of the Sands Bethlehem’s operations to Wind Creek, the minority owners, BethWorks Now LLC, had their stake in the facility transferred into a ground lease. Wind Creek, which owns the structures and improvements on the site, entered into a lease with the ground landlords.”

Don’t you wish you had lawyers so good!

Sara K. Satullo, “Without $5.9M casino sale windfall, Bethlehem looks to rainy day fund for $3.9M of projects.” lehighvalleylive.com, September 4, 2019.

Bethlehem officials hoped the sale of the Sands casino would net them a $5.9 million cash windfall to help knock lingering major repairs off the city’s to-do list. But then the casino sale’s complex structuring only left the city with $317,000.

Now, the administration has crafted a plan to still tackle some of the big-ticket items that keep getting kicked down the road by tapping its $15 million rainy day fund and $1.48 million left over from its 911 center consolidation.

On Tuesday evening, Bethlehem City Council’s finance committee heard the pitch to fund $3.98 million of the projects — things like fire trucks and street paving — and then the full council backed the budget transfers on first reading during the regular meeting. Council will vote on the ordinances at its Sept. 17 meeting.

The city typically borrows $5 million every other year to tackle capital repairs, but as costs rise the money doesn’t go as far, said Eric Evans, city business administrator. Some of the projects have lingered on the list since 2007.

Since 2013, Bethlehem’s dug itself out of deficit spending, built its cash reserves and earned an A+ bond rating, Evans noted. The city currently has more than the 15 percent S&P wants to see in savings, so Evans said he feels comfortable tapping the rainy day fund.

The administration wants to get back on a fire department vehicle replacement schedule, make repairs to the Bethlehem Area Public Library columns, fix the floor of the City Hall garage and put in a new Rodgers Street facility for the ground maintenance staff.

There’s some welcome news for downtown residents and merchants: $175,000 for a massive snow blower to clear huge piles of snow. Currently, after narrow roads are plowed of snow the city brings in front-end loaders to put the snow in dump trucks to cart it away. The snowblower will streamline the process, Evans said.

Council identified a Lehigh River pedestrian bridge study and upgrades to West Bethlehem’s Rose Garden as important projects for the potential casino transfer tax.

On Tuesday night, council sought reassurances those projects were still being funded.

The pedestrian bridge study will be grant funded while there’s $105,000 for the Rose Garden — $50,000 from a bond, $50,000 in city recreation fees and $5,000 from the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association, Evans said. There’s a potential $110,000 grant for the Rose Garden as well.

The city plans to postpone spending $200,000 on converting street lights to LED; lighting upgrades on Route 412, $220,000 of drainage work on Fifth Street and $200,000 on an addition to the Easton Avenue firehouse.

Nicole Radzievich, “So, the tax windfall from the Sands casino sale fell short. Here is Bethlehem’s Plan B.” Morning Call, September 4, 2019.

Bethlehem had hoped that a tax windfall from the $1.3 billion sale of the Sands casino would jump-start some long-delayed projects like fire truck replacements and road maintenance.

But now that the real estate transfer tax turned out to be just over $300,000 and not the $6.5 million once projected, Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez’s administration on Tuesday released its Plan B.

The plan delays nearly $1.62 million worth of those projects and uses surplus cash to cover nearly $4 million of them. About $2.5 million will come from a surplus the city has accumulated since 2012 and another $1.48 million will come from cash left over from its 911 operations, which consolidated with Northampton County’s operations.

Business Administrator Eric Evans said that by the end of last year, the city had about $15 million in cash, or about 19% of the city’s operating budget, and is expected to finish this year with a modest surplus.

After spending $2.5 million in reserves, the city’s cash on hand is expected to drop to 16% of the operating budget, Evans said. Standard & Poor’s bond rating agency recommends a cash balance of 15% of an operating budget.

Over the next 1½ years, the money is budgeted to go toward two fire trucks, trunking system radios, a snowblower for a front loader, street overlays, a chiller, a garage floor, repairs to the Bethlehem Area Public Library columns and a project at the public works facility on Rodgers Street.

That still leaves about $1.62 million in projects, such as lighting upgrades and more street work, that will be postponed until funding is identified. The city found grants and other funding sources for projects like improvements to the Rose Garden, a pedestrian bridge study and security upgrades to City Hall.

The difference between the city’s initial projections of as much as $6.5 million and the actual transfer tax of just over $300,000, boiled down to how the casino deal was structured. It allowed for only the value of the underlying land to be computed in the transfer tax calculation.

To enable Las Vegas Sands Corp. to sell 100% of the Sands Bethlehem’s operations to Wind Creek, the minority owners, BethWorks Now LLC, had their stake in the facility transferred into a ground lease. Wind Creek, which owns the structures and improvements on the site, entered into a lease with the ground landlords.

Overheard in the check-out line at the hardware store . . .

It didn’t take long for Gadfly’s snarky to come back!

And Clairton has a coke works.

They still make coke?

Yeah.

I didn’t know they still made coke.

Yeah.

That’s somethin’.

We used to have a coke works here.

Yeah?

Yeah.

And now we’re goin’ to have a water park.

Yeah?

Yeah.

Just what every town needs.

Just what every town needs.

——-

Wind Creek has been quoted as saying they see a water park in the old #2 Machine Shop as helping create the “the No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast.”

Irony you could taste flowed at the end of this above fragment of overheard conversation.

Gadfly must admit — despite Anna’s caution — that a huge indoor water park gives him the night sweats.

Gadfly has already shuddered publicly in a daytime post at the image of the Southside as a community of “Stacks, Steeples, and (Water) Slides.”

Can’t they find a use for #2 Machine shop that blends with the town’s history and character?

Or has the presence of the Casino changed everything?

A design that blends.

Gadfly’s been thinking about that verb a lot lately.

Kim Carrell-Smith planted it in his consciousness in a post a while back.

More on blended development soon.

Sands pushes for a casino in New York City (10)

(10th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

John Marquette is a retired librarian/archivist, author, historian, and a resident of Bethlehem. His current project is focused on the restoration of the interior of the Archibald Johnston Mansion in Housenick Park. 

Gadfly:

Did you see this morning’s paper? When Paterson is successful (not if!), this will be the end of the fifty buses a day to our casino, and a huge drop in revenue.

David Klepper, “Sands brings big hitter to lobby for NYC casino.”

Former New York Gov. David Paterson is joining Las Vegas Sands Corp. to lead the casino and resort developer’s push for a casino in New York City. Voters have already authorized up to three casinos for the nation’s largest city, but state law says they can’t be approved until 2023 at the earliest. Paterson, who is joining Sands as a senior vice president, said there’s no reason to wait, and that lawmakers should lift the moratorium next year. Sands just recently sold its Bethlehem casino. “Is it going to happen in 2023 or 2020? Why not start three years earlier?” he said. “This is really a tremendous opportunity to create jobs in New York.”

What plans does Wind Creek/Poarch Band have in place to really revitalize the Steel property before we lose the NY gamers to a brand name they know and love?

If we didn’t like the amount from the sale of the Sands to Wind Creek, we are not going to be happy with having to depend on visitors from the Lehigh Valley and west Jersey.

John

Fair play across the board needed (9)

(9th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Steve Melnick has had a career in economic development for over 35 years in several states, with the last 20 years here in Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley.

Gadfly:

It seems to me that Mr Callahan is trying to set an very acrimonious tone with Wind Creek. Politically, it would appear that the mayoral race is already underway, and Mr. Callahan is trying to present himself as the advocate for the common man rather than the big corporate donors that have funded his campaigns in the past. It is beyond comprehension to expect Wind Creek to willingly overpay their taxes just to make life easier for city council during their budget negotiations. In an attempt to position himself as the financial watchdog for the city, and in the interest of transparency, I would presume that he chastised the Benner building owners when they did the same thing and asked the city to backstop a $17 million dollar garage for their primary use. I presume that Mr Callahan has also had this discussion with the owners of the Martin Tower site as well as with Jeff Parks and his group over their project. Fair play across the board.

Steve