The picture postcard view of The Greenbrier resort’s white hotel facade offset with tulips in spring splendor is gone, replaced by cranes and construction workers in a dash to finish an underground casino beneath what used to be the front lawn.
“It’s basically crunch time,” said Todd Fishon, the resort’s vice president of casino operations.
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A harsh winter has pushed back the opening of the 89,000-square-foot Casino Club to June and the exact date will be determined soon, he said.
The casino is being built underground so it won’t take away from the ambiance and scenery of the 6,500-acre resort, which has entertained kings and presidents and still houses a once-secret Cold War-era bomb shelter that was intended for Congress.
A tiny portion of the casino opened in October. For the bigger version, an area in front of the hotel’s entrance was excavated. Resort officials aimed for an April 15 debut, but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate.
“Nobody expected to have one of the worst winters in West Virginia in recent history,” Fishon said. “At the time when the weather hit, we were still trying to enclose it. We got behind. The extremely cold temperatures made it tough to pour cement. Every time it snowed, we had to dig ourselves out. Every snowstorm cost us a good week.”
Gambling at The Greenbrier has been a hot topic ever since state lawmakers started tackling the issue in the mid-1990s. A 1999 state law allowed the resort to open a casino if Greenbrier County voters approved. Voters rejected such a move in 2000. In 2008, however, they passed the measure by a 51 percent to 49 percent vote.