2014-06-12 / Opinion

Back to the Future – Newport 2015

To the Editor:

There has been considerable writing and discussion about the proposed gambling future for Newport with the plans for full casinos at Newport Grand slots and the renewed interest of the Narragansett Indian Tribe in the surplus navy property.

What do we have to look forward to? Let me count the ways.

Suppose you are driving over the Pell Bridge into the Newportof the-future and you glance over to the location of the present Newport Grand Slots. You see a sparkling architectural makeover into a Beaux Arts, Monte Carlo-style casino, as envisioned by Northeast Collaborative Architects who have been hired by the proposed-tobe new owners. This new building hides the present ugly stable enclosing all the slot machines your heart could ever desire.

Joseph Paolino, the former Providence mayor, has partnered with Peter de Savary of the Carnegie Abbey endeavor and the Massachusetts investor, Paul Roiff, to propose the purchase of the Newport Grand Slots. Once they have given birth to this ultimate Newport Monte Carlo Casino, they certainly wouldn’t want to play second fiddle to the Narragansett Indians. So, keep tuned to discover how magical manipulations might reinvent the casino on the Newport harborfront, which is the only logical economic site to set sail with a casino cabaret, especially if the competition is next door.

Then suppose your eyes wander over to the naval base and come to rest on the abandoned naval hospital. Magical things are happening. The Narragansett Indian Tribe has managed to snag the surplus naval buildings and waterfront land, which the navy considers superfluous. The tribe is remodeling the interior of the hospital (it is historic and cannot be demolished), filling the cavernous space with even more table games and slot machines than you thought possible. A high-end hotel, waterside restaurant, marina, entertainment and convention centers would fill out the complex very nicely.

Driving off the bridge into Newport, the confused tourist would be at wits end to decide which of these grand emporiums he should go to first since they would be in walking distance of each other. Perhaps a covered walkway between the two would be appropriate! Better still, the commuter railroad between Newport and Portsmouth could build a railroad station between the two gambling palaces to serve both the northern and southern ends of Aquidneck Island. Presto! Traffic problems could be significantly reduced.

Plans for the North End development with hi-tech entrepreneurial businesses, coordination with naval technology, housing, etc. would be shelved, along with the charm and beauty that have made Newport one of America’s outstanding resorts. Instead, we could luxuriate in a Las Vegas lifestyle mixed in with the backstreet demise of what was once a fashionable Atlantic city resort.

Of course, this discussion is really just a lot of financial doggerel isn’t it? Or is it? Ed Madden


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