Grand Island Casino Resort Construction at Nebraska’s Fonner Park to Soon Begin

Posted on: September 6, 2023, 12:47h. 

Last updated on: September 6, 2023, 01:44h.

Work on the $100 million Grand Island Casino Resort at Fonner Park in Nebraska is expected to begin sometime next month, project officials say.

Fonner Park casino Grand Island Nebraska
The Nebraska State Fair, hosted annually at Fonner Park, wrapped up on Labor Day. The track is now focusing its attention on its forthcoming casino resort. The $100 million project is being bankrolled by Elite Casino Resorts. (Image: Nebraska State Fair)

With the Nebraska State Fair over as of Labor Day, the focus at Fonner Park turns to the forthcoming casino resort. Fonner Park qualified to seek a state casino license after Nebraskans, during the November 2020 election, passed a statewide ballot referendum authorizing slot machines, table games, and sports betting at the state’s licensed racetracks.

Fonner Park, owned by the Hall County Livestock Improvement Association, partnered with Elite Casino Resorts to overhaul the facility into a Las Vegas-style casino destination. Based in Iowa, Elite operates three casinos in its home state and a fourth in Illinois.

Fonner Park’s Grand Island Casino Resort will be built adjacent to the racetrack and incorporate the track’s grandstand into the complex. Elite officials recently said construction will begin in mid to late October, with a 2024 opening date to be determined as work progresses.

Fonner Park is located about 80 miles west of the Lincoln capital. The drive is about 90 minutes via Interstate 80.

Elite Casino Resorts opened a temporary casino inside the Fonner Park concourse last December. The provisional gaming space includes 300 slot machines and electronic table games. The casino has generated gross gaming revenue of $16.9 million from January through July 2023.

Fonner Park Overhaul

Elite Casino Resorts named Vince Fiala, formerly the assistant general manager of the company’s Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort in Larchwood, Iowa, as the forthcoming general manager of its Fonner Park property.

Fiala told NBC affiliate KSNB this week that the resort blueprint is being finalized. Once the design is settled, the project will be submitted to the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission for formal approval. Construction will begin once the state gaming regulatory signs off on the plan.

Fiala and other Elite reps have previously said the Fonner Park casino space will measure about 37,000 square feet and come with 650 slot machines, 20 live dealer table games, and a sportsbook. Elite is partnered with Betfred Sports for its sports betting operations.

Along with the casino, Elite’s Grand Island Casino Resort will come with a 116-room hotel with the occupancies overlooking the Fonner Park racetrack. The hotel will additionally include a showroom where musicians will perform nightly. A spa featuring massages, salon services, a sauna, and an ice room is also reportedly in the works.

As for dining, the casino will be headlined by Ruthie’s Steak and Seafood, a rooftop dining experience set in a “contemporary but elegant atmosphere.” Elite Casino Resorts owns the Ruthie’s brand and has restaurant locations at each of its Iowa properties — Rhythm City Casino in Davenport, Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside, and Grand Falls.

Elite Opens Illinois Casino

After the company opened its Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort in Illinois’ Carterville last month, Fonner Park has Elite’s full attention.

Elite’s casino resort is a partnership with Walker’s Bluff Vineyard, a family-run rural estate that offers fine dining and wedding capabilities. The destination now includes a 113-room hotel with the casino, 650 slots, and 14 tables.

Walker Bluff’s longtime namesake steakhouse and Ruthie’s co-headline the casino resort’s culinary offerings.