Menominee Indian Tribe and Hard Rock will try again to build casino in Kenosha

The Bristol Village Board and Community Development Authority voted unanimously Tuesday to sell 60 acres of land to Hard Rock International for about $15 million.
The Bristol Village Board and Community Development Authority voted unanimously in July 2022 to sell 59.2 acres of land to Hard Rock International for about $15 million.

Last updated on July 22nd, 2022 at 11:02 pm

The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin announced today that it is partnering with Hard Rock International to relaunch its effort to build an entertainment center and casino in Kenosha.

The Menominee Tribe and Hard Rock, a hotel, restaurant and casino company that is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, previously tried to develop a massive entertainment complex and casino at the former Dairyland Greyhound Park site in Kenosha. However, those plans were shot down by then Gov. Scott Walker in 2015.

Now the Menominee Tribe and Hard Rock are making plans for a different site in Kenosha, located southwest of I-94 and 60th Street. The site is located within the Kenosha city limits, but is owned by the village of Bristol. The Bristol Village Board and Community Development Authority voted unanimously Tuesday to sell the 59.2 acres to Hard Rock for about $15 million.

Menominee Chairman Ronald J. Corn, Sr. said that one change for the new Hard Rock Kenosha project is that the size of the casino will be trimmed back to reflect the increased number of gaming facilities in both Wisconsin and northern Illinois. In addition to the casino, the project will include a hotel, Hard Rock Cafe, a live music venue and other amenities.

The previous casino and entertainment center project proposed by the Menominee Tribe and Hard Rock was for an $800 million development with a casino, hotel, 5,000-seat entertainment venue, retail space and restaurants. It was planned for the former Dairyland Greyhound Park site in Kenosha.

That project was approved by the City of Kenosha, Kenosha County, and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and Department of the Interior. But off-reservation casinos by Native American tribes must also receive the approval of the governor, which is why Walker was able to block the project.

The former Dairyland Greyhound Park site is now being redeveloped into a mix of commercial and residential uses.

Since the new casino proposal by the Menominee Tribe and Hard Rock is at a different site than the previous proposal, the project will have to develop a revised federal gaming application as well as negotiate updated intergovernmental agreements.

“We are sincerely grateful for the positive working relationship we have had over the years with the city of Kenosha, Kenosha County, the local business community, and the countless residents who have supported our previous efforts,” said Corn. “We look forward to re-engaging with the community as our talks with the city and county take shape. We have always said it must be good for Kenosha to be good for Menominee, and we are excited about getting the process started.”

Corn said that the revived casino development effort is aimed at providing necessary resources for the ongoing and growing needs of the tribe’s members. The Menominee is ranked as one of the largest and poorest tribes in Wisconsin, a spokesman for the tribe said.

“Much has changed since our 2015 effort, but the needs of our tribe and its members have continued, and in some cases grown more acute,” Corn said. “We need to make greater investments into health care for our children and elders. We need to make more investments into educating our young people. And we need to do more to reduce the high levels of poverty, hunger, and unemployment on our reservation. A casino and entertainment center in the city of Kenosha is the best path for our tribe to obtain the resources to help achieve those important goals.

“The proposed project will not be as big as it was previously envisioned, but it will still create jobs and be substantial. It will still be a Hard Rock brand and be an incredible addition to the community, the local and regional economy, and the state,” he said.

Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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