Wind Creek Bethlehem, previously owned by Sands Casino, plans to expand parts of the resort this spring.
Amelia Tognoli, brand marketing coordinator for Wind Creek Bethlehem, said the expansion will include 270 additional rooms, 35,000 square feet of meeting space, a lobby bar, spa and pool. She said the project is expected to last 14 months.
When Wind Creek bought Sands, the need for a hotel expansion was necessary, said Alicia Karner, director of community and economic development for the city of Bethlehem.
Karner said she still does not know what the final cost for the project will be.
In 2019, Wind Creek Bethlehem was at 93 percent occupancy rate, and it lost an estimated $7 million in meetings revenue, Tognoli said.
Karner said there is a higher demand than supply for hotels and conference centers in Bethlehem, and Wind Creek’s expansion will accommodate and increase Bethlehem visitors.
She said she conducted a hotel and convention study in 2013, in an attempt to get the Sands to build conference space at that time.
“Back when Bethlehem Steel ceased operations here, and we looked for redevelopment on this site, there was a lot of conversation on how it happens and what we do with it,” Karner said. “This is absolutely meeting those goals identified in a number analysis, plans and zoning over the years.”
Tognoli said the expansion will drive tourism and also increase tax revenue for the city of Bethlehem.
Bethlehem is one of two cities in Pennsylvania to be designated to the City Revitalization and Improvement Authority. This authority incentivizes development by giving back state taxes to the city for development projects, Karner said.
She said Wind Creek will get 80 percent of the taxes, and the city will get 20 percent.
Karner said the tax revenue may go toward lighting throughout the South Side or an expansion of the Greenway to benefit the public. But there is something in the way of expansion.
A 300-ton building press from 1887, used by Bethlehem Steel, sits in the middle of a parking circle. The expansion calls for the roundabout and press to be removed, said Glenn Koehler, director of marketing and public relations for the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem. .
“It’s the last of its kind in the country,” said Kara Mohsinger, president and CEO of the National Museum of Industrial History. “Our historian began with the museum in 2003 and was consulted about it prior to the casino sale.”
Koehler said the bending press was part of an addition that escalated Bethlehem to become one of the foremost manufactures of arms in the world.
Mohsinger said it is important to try to save it because of its history with the nation’s military-industrial complex.
Tognoli said she is working with developers and taking reasonable efforts to remove the structure in one piece.
“We’d love (the press) to be in a place where the public has easy access to see it, ” Koehler said.
Koehler said he predicts the piece will be moved to the SteelStacks campus or on the Wind Creek property.
“We’d also, of course, love it to be in a place that the public has easy access to see it,” Koehler said.