Sunday, April 6, 2003

Domed hotel could benefit



The Associated Press

WEST BADEN SPRINGS, Ind. - Over a century, the West Baden Springs Hotel has alternately served as a luxury hotel, a Jesuit seminary, a private college and, most recently, a $32 million renovation project bankrolled by a millionaire entrepreneur.

Today, the massive domed structure is open only to tours and afternoon teas, and the building and 680 acres of surrounding property are for sale for $34 million.

Sale prospects could improve if the Indiana General Assembly approves a new casino nearby - a casino that could draw more guests if a buyer reopens the hotel.

The current owner, the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, believes the casino bill's improved chances this year have boosted interest from prospective buyers.

"If this passes, I think there will be a lot of interest," said Tina Connor, the foundation's vice president of marketing.

The 500-room hotel and its six-story domed atrium went up for sale when work began in 1996 to restore what by then was a collapsing ruin. The state landmarks foundation undertook the work with Cook Group Inc., a Bloomington-based medical technology company founded by Bill Cook.

Cook's money for the restoration has been used up with the job only partially complete.

The hotel has National Historic Landmark status and is best known for its 200-foot-wide glass and steel dome soaring 100 feet above a mosaic-tiled floor. It was the world's largest freespan dome before the Astrodome's construction in Houston in 1965.




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