Downtown Sioux City church holds casino conversation - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Downtown Sioux City church holds casino conversation

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -

A land-based casino promises to bring new economic opportunities to downtown Sioux City.  However, one proposal is also creating concerns for neighbors.

In the shadow of the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Sioux City sits the former Warrior Hotel.  It's also a potential place to put Woodbury County's new casino.

"I have concerns," said parishioner Linda Williams.

After Sunday services, about 100 members of the congregation met to talk about the impact that a $122-million casino could have on them.

"We're Presbyterian.  Freedom of conscience is one of the bedrocks of what it means to be Presbyterian," Rev. Matthew Miller told the congregation as he opened up the discussion.

Parishioner Barb Davis stood up and said, "I see nothing negative in this."

"I do find it regrettable that the only thing that can generate the money to restore it is gambling," countered Mike Bowman.

"They may lose everything and come over here to repent," replied retired pastor Rev. Peg Brinck.

"I'm not necessarily in favor, I'm not necessarily opposed," Tim Hynds added.

For some gambling is a moral dilemma. 

"You know that's a sin, like any other sin," Juliana Mayne said.

She also worries about the future.

"I am concerned about the growth in membership," Mayne added.

Others say the casino poses parking problems for members.

"I guess I don't want it in my backyard," said Linda Williams.

Some corners of the congregation are committed to the casino.

"We're at a location where people drive by but maybe don't notice that we're alive and well.  I think that gives us great opportunities," Davis said.

"I think we need to think about bringing all kinds of people in, not just young people with children," said another parishioner.

The Warrior has sat vacant for decades, and been saved from the wrecking ball more than once.  "I need to see that building come back to life," said parishioner Howard Wanned.

"Probably the only chance we'll have to see that restored to some of its former grandeur," added another.

Though the meeting didn't bring the congregation to consensus Wanned said, "There doesn't need to be because we as a church body our not going to take an official church position."

Even  though the opinions are plenty, "Presbyterians aren't monolithic on anything.  We've never agreed on anything, I don't think, other than the lordship of Jesus Christ," said Rev. Miller.

This divisive issue did not divide this congregation.

"We respected one another, we respected one another's opinions, and we honored that, that was more important, that what we held in common as the body of Christ was more important than the differences in opinions that we share," Miller pointed out.

It's a discussion going on in and out of this church and throughout this community.

Ho-Chunk Incorporated is behind the Warrior Hotel proposal.  It includes 93 hotel rooms, an 800 seat concern venue, 800 slots, and 25 table games, along with restaurants, where CEO Lance Morgan says he plans to offer members of the church a discount on the buffet after services.  He says his company's committed to being neighborly.       

"We intend to be a great neighbor, not a good neighbor, a great neighbor, and if something were to emerge, then we'll deal with it.  But, we don't think there's going to be a major problem, to be honest.  We put a lot of thought into the parking, we put a lot of thought into what we're doing so that doesn't interfere with what they're doing and we think that they've got a pretty good mission, too," Morgan explained.

On March 26th, the commission will tour each of the four sites; Sioux City Entertainment's Battery Building, Ho-Chunk Inc.'s Warrior Hotel, and Penn National Gaming's two options, the Holiday Inn off Gordon Drive and an open field near I-29's Port Neal Interchange.  Parishioners say they plan to attend the public meeting later that day.

The gaming license will be given out April 18th.

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