2004: Business - Mississippi, resort company roll dice with domed course and casino project

Imagine a golf course in the South where the oppressive heat of summer has no effect on business, where rain never cancels tee times and golfers can play 24 hours per day.

Now, picture that course enclosed within a mile-long, 40-story dome. Unbelievable, you say? Think again. Such a climate-controlled mecca is the centerpiece of a colossal project recently approved by Mississippi’s gaming commission: the $900 million Myriad Botanical Resort hotel and casino project in Tunica County.

The proposed 540-acre resort, to be located about 30 minutes south of Memphis, Tenn., would include a 1,200-room hotel, 80,000-square-foot casino, 374,000-square-foot convention center and an 18-hole enclosed layout.

The 7,005-yard, natural-grass course is to be set in a lush tropical environment of vegetation, foliage and trees – all under a 1,200-foot-wide, translucent, Teflon-coated, vinyl-laminate covering, said Fred Hayne, spokesman for Edmonton, Alberta-based Myriad World Resorts.

“It’s not only a golf course, but a botanical resort,” Hayne said. “It’ll be the world’s largest indoor botanical resort with real trees, real grass. . . . just as it would’ve been if it were outdoors. When you look up, it’ll be like a blue sky because that’s what’s beyond it. In every corner, we’ve got to wow them.”

Hayne said it was too early in the planning stages to discuss details of the 155-acre course, but he did say the eventual cost of the course, gardens and dome probably would be about $100 million. The dome will be an air-supported cable structure.

Myriad wants to open the course as soon as possible, but it is required by the state gaming commission to open the hotel and casino first and have it operating no later than fall 2006. It is in the process of gaining proper entitlements for the entire project.

“I’m not here to say (the permit process is) over, but we believe the other nine casinos in the area and 6,000 hotel rooms . . . the entities have approved all these things so there’s no reason to say no to us,” Hayne said. “Plus, we’re so diversified, the resort is such a plus for the area.”

As for financing the project, which will feature automatic lighting for evening rounds of golf, interest is growing.

“Once we got approval, the phones have started to ring from different directions we hadn’t heard from before,” Hayne said. “That tells us there’s interest in developing gaming.”

News of the indoor course has sparked curiosity in the local golf community.

“I was at Tupelo Country Club the other day with the superintendent, and we were wondering how in the world they could afford that,” said John Tinney, superintendent of Big Oaks Golf Course in Tupelo. “Just the electrical bill keeping it cool and warm. . . . It sounds kind of wild to me.”

Mississippi is one of the country’s most popular gaming destinations, and there already are nine casinos operating in Tunica County.

But the Myriad proposal includes more than just gaming and golf. Plans also include a five-acre water park and snow park, complete with artificial snow.

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