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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Harrah's Presents Pittsburgh Proposal


Forest City Enterprises and Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. today presented their plan for investing more than $1 billion at Station Square to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board during public hearings held in Pittsburgh. The two industry leaders reiterated their commitment and ability to generate the most revenues for the state, Allegheny County, City of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh School District. The plan includes substantial new investment in support of a revitalized downtown Pittsburgh, a $512 million casino, a community partnership with the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, and the creation of a new charitable foundation headed by Franco Harris.

"We're excited about the tremendous potential of bringing the Harrah's brand to western Pennsylvania's premier tourist destination," said Charles Atwood, chief financial officer of Harrah's Entertainment. "We plan to create a first-class gaming, retail, and dining experience, one that we believe, when combined with our industry-leading customer loyalty program, will complement and expand Pittsburgh's tourism industry."

Brian Ratner, director of Forest City Enterprises outlined the group's support of the multi-purpose arena financing plan: "We are looking forward to the opportunity to work with the government to execute a plan to construct a new arena. We believe the Arena Funding Plan offered by Governor Rendell, Executive Onorato and Mayor O'Connor is a great approach to financing a new multi-purpose Arena." Ratner continued, "Once the Penguins commit to staying in Pittsburgh as an integral part of the community, the Harrah's Station Square team welcomes the opportunity to finalize the terms of our participation."

The plan expands Station Square into a bustling, new, urban mixed-use residential and entertainment community. This will include ground-floor retail, sidewalk dining and cafe eateries, a 400,000-square-foot, $512 million Harrah's Station Square Casino with 3,000 slots, an additional 200 rooms at the adjacent 400-room Sheraton Station Square Hotel, and 1,250 residential condominium units. All of these new elements will be connected by pedestrian scaled streets, creating a neighborhood look and feel. The residential units will have porches and stoops, accompanied by new parks and a riverside esplanade offering improved river access. With more than 50 acres at Station Square, the plan also allows for future expansion of the casino to 5,000 slots and the creation of a new hotel tower with 300-500 rooms.

"Harrah's Entertainment is committed to creating compelling gaming entertainment experiences in the markets in which we operate," Atwood said. "This translates into the greatest economic impact for the City of Pittsburgh and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: More jobs, greater property and wage tax relief, and more opportunities for local businesses."

Jesse Fife, Jr., Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, spoke in support of the Harrah's Station Square proposal, explaining the role his institution will play should the license be awarded to the group.

"Our organization is deeply committed to the future of this region and we entered into a partnership with Harrah's Station Square because we realized their plan offers a unique opportunity to create a diverse workforce development program and good paying jobs in this region. Bidwell will serve as the training ground for many of the projected employees that Harrah's will need to sustain a successful casino in Pittsburgh," Fife said. "As we evaluated this partnership, it became clear to us that Harrah's Station Square is the applicant that has the capacity to create the most jobs for our region. Their human resources, employment track record and commitment to diversity is unparalleled in the industry and has become the benchmark for every other player in the casino industry. Equally important, Harrah's is a company that understands how to create opportunities for inner city, disadvantaged populations."

Brian Ratner, director of Forest City Enterprises, outlined the findings of a transportation impact study conducted by nationally recognized transportation engineering firm DKS Associates, and Pittsburgh's GAI Consultants. "Station Square is uniquely positioned to absorb the enhanced visitation a casino will bring from a transportation standpoint. Its location on the west side of Station Square allows for the best integration into the overall site and offers the only location that benefits from all modes of transportation - interstate highway, river, light rail, bus, pedestrian and incline," Ratner said. "We also will tap an interstate system that will take traffic off of Carson Street, the Smithfield Street Bridge and the downtown area. When combined with the assets already in place at Station Square and Bessemer court and the additional retail that will be developed, this development will create a 'spine line' or Main Street concept that will connect a dynamic multi-purpose, mixed use Station Square and a vibrant, walkable community."

Forest City and Harrah's also reviewed their significant philanthropic commitment to Pittsburgh, both now and in the long-term, that will be realized should they secure the license to develop a casino, as follows:

- The Forest City/Harrah's development proposal will enable the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation to establish an endowment of $25 million. Proceeds to the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation will be invested with its existing funds and used to support and expand programs to revitalize inner city neighborhoods.

- In addition, the Forest City/Harrah's development proposal will give a total of more than $1 million a year through a foundation to support the community. Half of the funds must be used in neighborhoods with a 60 percent or higher minority population. Franco Harris will lead the effort to give these funds back to the community. This money will be made available as soon as the license is secured.

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