News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Brian Werth, Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jan. 27, 2004 - Craig Adolph's vision of the West Baden-French Lick area is a Hoosier version of Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
Adolph represents a group of investors that has offered $30 million to buy the historic West Baden Springs Hotel. The offer is contingent on a French casino operator receiving the operating permit for the state's 11th casino.
Tranchant Indiana made the offer Wednesday. The group is affiliated with Groupe Tranchant, a French company that operates 20 casinos in France and four in other countries.
Three other companies have applied for the casino license, which will be awarded in April. They are: Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts; casino developer Park Place Entertainment; and a group led by Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird.
Adolph believes he has a strong package to offer Orange County. He said his track record as an economic development booster in northeast Indiana will help his quest in Orange County.
An executive with Kruse International in Auburn, a leading auction house and vintage car selling company, Adolph also has helped build a YMCA and a World War II museum in the Auburn area.
"We're trying to make Orange County a true destination," Adolph said Thursday in a telephone interview. "That's why I'm involved in a film company there. When you add in a casino, the two great historic hotels and the nearby Paoli Peaks ski resort, you've got an Indiana version of Tahoe, or even Hollywood and Las Vegas."
Adolph was instrumental in assisting the formation of the Mike the Pike film studio in French Lick.
"We're not trying to re-create the wheel here," Adolph said. "We're just polishing it off and bringing it back to what it used to be."
From 1900 to the stock market crash of 1929, the West Baden area was a national tourism destination. It was a vibrant spot, complete with gambling and illegal alcohol consumption during Prohibition. The domed hotel and surrounding area was the spring training site for the Chicago Cubs and White Sox for a time.
"We hope to create the atmosphere where young people in Indiana won't have to leave the state to get a good job," Adolph said. "We'd love to develop ties with Bloomington and Indiana University to boost the movie industry we're developing."
Adina Cloud, vice president of the French Lick-West Baden Springs Historic Hotel Preservation Commission, is glad to see some movement forward.
"A year ago, we were so concerned we would never have this opportunity, that it would never come," she said.
In November, residents of the economically depressed county voted nearly 2-to-1 in favor of allowing a casino. It is to be built on an artificial waterway between the hotel in West Baden Springs and another hotel in nearby French Lick.
The $30 million offer, however, is lower than the $35 million spent by the Cook Group of Bloomington on restoring the hotel since it was acquired by Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana in 1996. That figure -- $35 million -- also is the asking price for the hotel.
Foundation spokeswoman Tina Connor said the offer would be reviewed along with other possible offers and the site's preservation needs.
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(c) 2004, Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.