Gaming back in French Lick, Indiana, and new Pete Dye course not far behind
Several years ago, I reviewed the French Lick Springs Resort and 1920 Donald Ross Hills Course” in French Lick, Indiana. Although I was blown away by the history of the opulent resort and the classic golf, the town itself left something to be desired. I wrote:
“…[T]he town of French Lick itself is in need of a major economic shot in the arm. The juxtaposition of the resort’s luxury and the town’s poverty is rather stunning. Tourism will help, especially with new additions like the Beechwood Country Inn, the French Lick Springs Villas (modern rental townhouses perched on the hills overlooking the resort), the restoration of the West Baden Resort, and some quaint antique shops. And there is a strong local and state-wide push to re-introduce casino gambling to the area as well. If this were accomplished, and direct rail service from Louisville and Indianapolis were re-established, French Lick could quite easily become a big-time hot-spot once again, along the lines of Branson, Mo.”
My call for the re-introduction of gaming in French Lick (along with the calls of many other folks) was answered on October 31, when the French Lick Springs Resort opened an 42,000 sq-ft casino, complete with 1,200 slot machines, 32 gaming tables, and a 12-table poker room. The grand opening of the casino coincides with the final touches on a massive renovation of the stately resort, which has hosted the likes of Al Capone, Nelson Rockefeller, and Bing Crosby.
In 1949, the original French Lick Springs casino was shut down, much to the detriment of the resort and the surrounding town. Now, with the reintroduction of gaming, big plans are in the works.
Not only will the West Baden Springs Resort be rebuilt (no small feat, as the massive original domed structure was once deemed the Eighth Wonder of the World), but the Donald Ross gem has been renovated and updated to the tune of $4.6 million.
Most importantly for us golfers, though, is a new Pete Dye course, which is scheduled to open in 2008 and guaranteed to offer as much risk-reward as those gaming tables in the casino.
Let’s hope the influx of tourist, gaming, and golfing money bolsters the local economy in French Lick. It would be a real shame if it deteriorated as badly as the dumpy little burg just down the road, Hungarian Handjob.
French Lick Springs Resort’s 1920 Donald Ross classic Hills Course
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