Island View Prepares For September Opening - - The News for South Mississippi

Island View Prepares For September Opening

Rick Carter stood in the old Oasis Hotel, a property his Copa Casino group bought shortly after the hurricane. "It's very exciting. This place is going to be spectacular," he said.

A year ago, Harrah's owned the hotel on the north side of Highway 90. And its casino action had to be across the street, on the water.

Katrina changed everything. It ripped apart Harrah's property, tossing part of its barge onto the highway, and flooding the Oasis Hotel. The storm also threw Copa Casino's barge out of the water. Carter's Copa group vowed to rebuild. Harrah's decided to sell. The Copa bought Grand Gulfport for $55 million. And it hired contractors to scrape away remnants of the storm and of the previous owner.

"We're spending more money remodeling this than it took to build it initially," said Carter.

Nothing inside the hotel's first floor looks the same. What was a lobby is quickly being retrofitted for slot machines.

"We're going to be the only casino, you walk in the front and it's just like Vegas, the casino is right here," Carter said. The spot where convention groups met is being transformed into a buffet. The work must be done by September, so Carter's team can open phase one.

"It's a big change," said Carter.

A change he believes is critical.

"It's extremely important. It gives us the ability to compete with everybody and we're going to be a major competitor," he said.

The new competitor has plenty of room to grow. Remember Grand's lazy river and pool. It's gone. In its place is an expansion due to open in January that Carter says will give Island View more casino floor space, two additional restaurants, and a title his company has never had before.

"The Island View is going to be the big dog," he boasted.

Carter said the initial phase of the Island View Casino and Hotel will open next month with 800 employees. For now, it will be the only casino in Gulfport.

by Brad Kessie

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