GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Island View Casino Resort officials said a growing economy and rising interest rates convinced them now is the right time for a $50 million expansion.
Chad Dugger is a slot director who started out as a slot tech when the company was then Copa Casino. He said both he and the company have come a long way.
"Starting at the Copa ten years ago, it's like night and day," Dugger said. "It was a little bitty barge that we had out on the water. Half of the machines that we have right here. Really under the radar for what was going on at the time on the Gulf Coast. And to go from that to this is night and day."
A new day is coming to Island View. The 16 story tower that's been empty since Katrina will be renovated to include hotel rooms, restaurants, a new pool and bar, and plenty of meeting space.
"We're going out for some convention business and it is needed," said co-owner Rick Carter. "We've had quite a bit of calls already, but we haven't had the facilities. We're going to be adding 400 rooms and that's very important. That will put us just under a thousand rooms and will allow us to go after a completely different market."
Carter said Island View is growing its market at a time the economy is also growing.
"This has been in the planning stages for over a year. But we were just waiting to make sure the economy was where it needed to be and our occupancy stayed steady, and it has," Carter said.
Carter said the hotel stays full and that steady stream of customers makes this the right time to grow. Employees like Chad Dugger are eager to see what's next.
"I would have never dreamed that it went down like this. It's fantastic and I'm proud to be a part of this team and a part of this company," said Dugger.
Island View officials say the parking garage will also be renovated so it can be utilized by hotel and casino guests. Work on the new hotel rooms is slated to start in early Fall and the project is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2015.