Another crucial step toward an eventual Chicago casino is no longer an outstanding issue. Bally’s has reached a deal to ensure the site of its gambling enterprise in the US’ third-largest metropolitan area will be empty when the time comes.
The time frame in which the building’s current occupant will vacate should allow Bally’s to stay on track with its casino opening target. Bally’s can now move onto setting things in motion so that renovations can begin as soon as that occupant gets out of the way.
Bally’s pays Tribune Publishing to vacate casino site
On Friday, David Roeder of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Bally’s reached an agreement with Tribune Publishing regarding the Freedom Center building in Chicago. Currently, Tribune Publishing holds its printing operations within the building for several major newspapers.
The terms of the deal include Bally’s making a series of payments to Tribune Publishing. In exchange, Tribune Publishing will vacate the Freedom Center by July 2024. Bally’s already purchased the site but then sold the land rights to an unnamed investor.
Essentially, the new money from Bally’s is the motivation for Tribune Publishing to just walk away from the building. According to Roeder, Tribune Publishing started calling the Freedom Center home in 1981.
Bally’s will now hold the lease to the property and make payments to its mystery landlord. It’s unclear if Bally’s will begin its renovations of the Freedom Center before Tribune Publishing vacates. It might be possible to start work on some areas of the property without obstructing the printing over the next 14 months.
For certain, though, this ensures that in July 2024 or perhaps earlier Bally’s will be able to ramp up construction at the casino in earnest.
Bally’s permanent casino likely stays on track for 2026 opening
Currently, most of Bally’s Chicago efforts likely focus on its temporary casino project in the city’s Medinah Temple. Bally’s just began hiring for many positions for that gambling operation. While Bally’s has provided no official updates since February, the company stated it wants to open the temporary casino in late June.
Should that unfold as Bally’s plans, it could further allow the company to divert more resources toward the permanent site. The plans encompass much more than the Freedom Center itself. Those include an outdoor green space that will be open to the public and much more.
- 11 restaurants
- 500-room hotel
- 3,000-seat theater
- An exhibition hall
The casino will also offer the largest gaming floor in Illinois with 4,000 individual positions. Pending regulatory approvals and operational execution, Bally’s wants to debut the property sometime in 2026. Taking over the property lease so construction can begin or escalate in July 2024 keeps the company on that timeline.
Tribune Publishing likely never imagined it would be leaving the Freedom Center so a casino could take over when it opened the building 42 years ago. Nonetheless, it is now a part of the evolving story of gambling in the Land of Lincoln.