DRA imagines possibilities for Schmitt Island, shares renderings

The nonprofit license holder for Dubuque’s two casinos formally outlined possibilities for Chaplain Schmitt Island development to its board Tuesday.

While members of the board for the DRA — legally known as the Dubuque Racing Association — had heard possible development plans for Schmitt Island previously, renderings and potential project ideas were shared during a board meeting at Q Casino.

“With great power, with great resources, requires responsibility,” said Alex Dixon, president and CEO of Q Casino, at the meeting. “We need to make tough choices about what we want and how we’re going to pay for it and in what order. These assets are the first things you see when you come into Iowa. We need to take advantage of that.”

Potential developments shared in the renderings — which were published in a Telegraph Herald story on Sunday — include putting an amphitheater at the greyhound track site, lighting the Dubuque-Wisconsin bridge, improving McAleece Park & Recreation Complex, adding “IOWA” signage, improving access to the Mississippi River and updating the exterior of the Mystique Community Ice Center.

“It’s all very exciting stuff,” said Kevin Lynch, chair of the DRA’s executive committee. “I couldn’t be more excited about the future of the island. I think when we look back at this organization five years from now, we won’t even recognize what it is today.”

Dixon also noted that these types of developments could help drive up revenues, similar to the effects of the Major League Baseball game at the Field of Dreams site in Dyersville earlier this month.

For the week of the MLB game, Dixon said the revenue per available room at the Hilton Garden Inn increased 33.3% compared to the week of last year’s Field of Dreams game. He cited more events during the week of the game as a draw to the area.

He also said the hotel was selling rooms for the day of the Aug. 11 game for $391 a room.

After the DRA meeting, Dixon told the TH that establishing Schmitt Island as a destination and hosting more events there could bring an increased economic impact in the years to come.

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Dixon said. “We can use this as a resource to create a rising tide.”

The DRA also reported a slight decrease in gaming revenue numbers for July.

Diamond Jo and Q Casino reported a combined $11.42 million in gaming revenue in July, down about 2% from the July 2021 total of $11.65 million.

Diamond Jo reported $6.78 million in gaming revenue in July, down from $6.97 million in July 2021. Q Casino generated $4.64 million in gaming revenue last month, compared to $4.68 million during the same time period last year.

“July was definitely a much better month than the previous two months,” said Brian Rakestraw, Q Casino chief operations financial officer. “August is also looking to be good.”