Westsiders ready to 'Stand Up'
Ohio legislatures have given a Westside casino the green light. Now it’s time for Ohio’s voters to have their say.
Stand Up, the campaign for Issue 2, is in full swing. The statewide issue, which would allow the location of Columbus’ future casino to relocate from the Arena District to the former Delphi plant on Georgesville Road, kicked off March 16 at Haydocy Automotive on West Broad Street.
Over 200 residents, business owners and local officials flooded the empty auto showroom, ready to start the campaign off with a bang.
“I have never been more proud of the Westside than I am today,” said Dewey Stokes, vice president of the Hilltop Business Association (HBA). “This community has come together for the past four months. We have redefined the word ‘community’.”
Voters authorized the arrival of Ohio casinos during the November 2009 election. With that vote, Penn National Gaming, a casino developer based in Pennsylvania, was granted permission to break ground in Ohio, including a Columbus casino to be located in the Arena District. Almost immediately following that vote, the campaign began to move the Columbus location away from the downtown area.
Several communities vied for the casino, but the Westside community, and the now vacant Delphi plant, won over the hearts and minds of Penn executives.
“We look forward to being a part of the fabric of this community,” said Eric Schippers, vice president of public affairs for Penn National. “We want to be that catalyst (that brings in development).”
During his speech, Schippers confirmed the developer will increase their promised investment in the Westside if Issue 2 passes.
“We will increase our commitment from the constitutionally required $250 million to $400 million,” said Schippers.
He added the casino would bring 3,500 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent, full-time jobs to the Westside.
“We want to create those 2,000 permanent, full-time jobs as soon as possible,” he said.
The HBA, along with many other local organizations, have touted the casino as a possible solution to the problem of a fast-emptying West Broad corridor. Those in favor of the Westside location hope the arrival of a casino on the Westside would spur development in the once thriving area.
Opposing groups have claimed the casino would only intensify the issues already being dealt with on the Westside.
Local governments and civic groups heard weeks of testimony from both sides of the issue, and an overwhelming amount of resolutions were passed in favor of the relocation. Now the entire state of Ohio will make the final decision on May 4.
Chris Haydocy, president of Haydocy Automotive, began the event by stressing the amount of work left to do.
“We have strategies to implement. We have votes to identify,” he said.
“We have to work nonstop for the next seven weeks to pass Issue 2,” said Stokes.
For more information on Issue 2 or the Stand Up campaign, visit www.StandUpFor2.com.