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Myriad World Resorts readies for $1.2-billion project

Teeing up in Tunica getting bigger and going indoors

Tunica — The planned $950-million Myriad Botanical Resort project for Tunica County, the largest of its kind in the world, has gotten even bigger.

Now with a price tag rivaling that of Nissan’s automotive assembly plant in Madison County, the company’s investment has surpassed $1.2 billion.

“Because of design changes, there’s even more to the project now,” said Myriad Golf Resorts spokesperson Fred Hayne, who quickly pointed out that the changes haven’t delayed the project.

“It may seem right now like nothing’s happening, but believe me, it is,” he said. “This is the world of high finance. You don’t see shovels in the ground at this point, but there’s an army of people behind the scenes dotting I’s and crossing T’s to make the financing work.”

The groundbreaking is expected to take place in the second quarter of the year, and the ambitious project — the first of its kind for the company — is expected to create 3,000 jobs and open by the end of 2006. When built, it will be Mississippi’s largest casino.

“We’re seeing so much enthusiasm from our competitors,” said Hayne. “They’re looking at the project as a bonus. Their support, plus great street-level support, bodes well for the industry and Tunica County.”

Described as a “virtual Shangri-la,” the world’s largest dome structure features many worldwide firsts: the largest indoor botanical resort and enclosed golf course. Featuring 7,100 yards and 18 holes of 24-hour-a-day play amid lush tropical plants and water features, the golf course is expected to open in the spring of 2008.

“The weather in the Mississippi summer can be unbearably hot and humid,” said Jerry Wayne, a former executive at the 40-acre Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, a domed botanical facility with nine acres of gardens, streams, waterfalls and greenhouses. “Golf courses have difficulty booking tee-times in the mid-afternoon heat. The sheer size of a dome covering a golf course will be a world-class spectacle. Anyone visiting Tunica will be enticed to see the inside of such a structure.”

Scott Hawrelechko, president and CEO of Myriad Golf Resorts, the author of “How to Create a Craze: Turn Your Everyday Product Into a Customer Obsession” and an avid golf enthusiast, began searching years ago for technology for a structure that would extend the golf season in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, when he stumbled across dome technology. Myriad registered with the Secretary of State’s Office in 2003. The Mississippi Gaming Commission approved the project last June.

“Oh, yeah, Scott will be down there quite a bit,” said Hayne, “though I don’t know if he will move permanently to the area. He at first considered placing the resort in Canada, but Tunica County’s growth as a destination resort influenced his decision to move the project to Mississippi.”

Myriad is counting on luring a significant share of Tunica’s 15 million annual visitors to the 540-acre resort, located two miles south of Hollywood Casino and near the proposed Interstate 69 project. It will feature 80,000 square feet of gaming space with 2,000 slot machines and 90 game tables, a four-star, 1,200-room hotel, a world-class health spa, 120,000 square feet of shopping, a 375,000-square-foot convention and trade show facility, meeting rooms and restaurants, an 1,800-seat indoor amphitheater, a five-acre water park and a water-way recreational transportation system.

“One visit to Myriad and you’ll believe nothing is impossible,” said Wayne. “Truly a place of marvels and wonder, the resort will offer a snow park in the sweltering state of Mississippi. Innovative technology, devised in the middle-eastern country of Dubai, will be used to create real snow for play, while Myriad’s climate-controlled environment will ensure a comfortable air temperature.”

The Snow Park will feature sled hills and snowball targets. A skating rink and ice caves for climbing and exploring will round out winter attractions. “These offerings will give young people choices for recreational activities, rather than just having to sit in hotel rooms,” said Hayne.

One planned amenity has been dropped: a multi-purpose indoor/outdoor venue for concerts, sporting events and trade shows, with seating for up to 20,000.

Jack Vaughn, who joined Opryland Hospitality Group in 1975 with the responsibility of concept design, construction and staff of the resort, and managed the resort for 25 years, is also on board.

“Because we haven’t done a project like this before, we brought on some heavy hitters,” said Hayne.

HDC & Associates is the project management team for Myriad Botanical Resort, and Hardaway Construction is the general contractor. Ridgeland-based Allen & Hoshall is providing engineering services, while Environmental Structures Inc. (ESI) is handling the engineered dome structure. JFK Enterprises is constructing the dome, which is expected to measure 5,500 feet long and 1,200 feet wide, with a center ceiling height of 300 feet. World-renowned golf course architects at Sid Puddicombe Associates, Ltd., are designing the indoor golf course.

Because the project will be located in a flood plain, Myriad will build a four-foot levee around the structure, which will be a part of the 500-year levee that exists on both sides of the Mississippi River. The dome’s steel cables located four feet apart to ground lightning will ensure that golfers will not be harmed during thunderstorms. There’s even a plan for tornados and hurricanes.

“ESI has constructed hundreds of domes of various sizes from the Artic Circle to the equator,” said Wayne. “One ESI dome has been hit by three tornadoes. This technology fares very well under harsh conditions.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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