By Dan Hust
KIAMESHA LAKE Mitchell Grossinger Etess does see the irony in a Grossinger descendant now intimately involved in the future of the defunct Concord Resort in Kiamesha Lake.
“I told my mother about it,” he quipped in an interview with the Democrat on Thursday, speaking of his mom Elaine. “She’s OK with it.”
Evidently so is Louis Cappelli, who happens to own both the Concord and Grossinger’s hotel sites. He’s hoping Etess and the casino brand Etess oversees, Mohegan Sun, can resurrect the former “Queen of the Catskills.”
Last week, Cappelli and Etess, CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, jointly announced a new partnership between Mohegan Sun and Cappelli’s Concord Associates in a bid to restart the long-stalled redevelopment of the Concord.
“Mohegan brings an unparalleled brand and expertise to the Concord team as well as its proven record of investment, development and operation of highly successful gaming and racing facilities in Connecticut and Pennsylvania,” Cappelli stated in a press release. “We believe our successful track record of creating large-scale economic development projects throughout New York, along with Mohegan’s property management skills, represent a natural partnership and view the redevelopment of the Concord Hotel as a way to generate enhanced tourism, tax revenue and job creation for the Catskills region and the State of New York.”
The first phase, totalling $600 million, includes a 75,000-square-foot casino with video lottery terminals and electronic table games, a 5/8-mile horseracing track and associated facilities, a 258-room hotel, and various restaurants and retail outlets.
Projected to open in 2013, the complex would be built on the site of the now-demolished Concord Resort Hotel.
Cappelli lost direct control of the rest of the old resort property to Entertainment Properties Trust, which is partnering with Empire Resorts, the owner of the Monticello Casino and Raceway, to possibly build a theme park on the approximately 1,700 acres surrounding the Concord.
Not surprisingly, Empire is none too pleased with Cappelli, who was once on its board and with whom it had planned to move the existing racetrack and casino to the Concord site. That plan recently fell apart.
The creation of another racino just two miles away would likely affect Empire’s own just-announced effort to expand its current offerings at Monticello with a hotel.
“At this time, neither Concord Associates, nor the [Mohegan Tribal Gaming] Authority have valid New York State licenses to operate a harness racetrack or video gaming machines (VGMs) in Sullivan County, prerequisites to the operation of VGMs at the proposed development,” Empire charged in a press release. “In addition, Empire does not believe that such licenses can be obtained by Concord Associates or the Authority under New York law and intends to vigorously oppose any request to obtain such licenses, including if necessary, by pursuing all of its available legal rights and remedies.”
Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini has said Cappelli has the needed license garnered from the defunct Roosevelt racetrack.
But evidently state law limits racetracks from operating too closely to one another. The current racino is about two miles from the Concord site.
Etess declined to comment on Cappelli and his relationship to Empire Resorts.
But he did address another concern that Mohegan Sun could water down its customer base with a casino in Kiamesha Lake, considering it already operates facilities in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. to the west and Uncasville, CT to the east.
“The location of the Concord in the Catskills,” Etess replied, “... creates a really strong triangle of marketing synergy.”
He believes a Concord casino the closest Mohegan Sun offering to New York City will increase customer loyalty and not hurt Mohegan Sun’s growth.
“We don’t announce something like this willy-nilly,” he explained.
Etess hopes to build on the success of Bethel Woods to revive the region’s ailing economy an area to which the Liberty native feels inextricably tied.
“The Catskills have so much to offer,” he related. “The region so desperately needs development.
“... We’re very excited about it.”