When the legendary Mount Airy Lodge closed in 2001‚ it looked as if the Poconos had lost the landmark resort forever. But the ka-ching of 3‚000 slot machines will resound in the Poconos when the new Mount Airy Resort & Casino opens its doors in November 2007. The rebirth of Mount Airy was set into motion when Dunmore businessman Louis DeNaples purchased the dilapidated resort in December 2004 for $25 million.
“Mount Airy Lodge was the signature resort in the Poconos from the late 1930s until it closed in 1999‚” says Kevin Feeley‚ spokesman for the new Mount Airy Resort & Casino. “By 2004‚ it had been vandalized and was subject to a lot of problems and disrepair. But Mr. DeNaples saw that the site was in the heart of the region. It was a place everyone knew about from New England to the mid-Atlantic.”
The first thing DeNaples and his crew did was demolish the existing run-down buildings on the property and start from scratch with a new design. In March 2005‚ they auctioned off Mount Airy memorabilia‚ including 80 heart-shaped tubs‚ Chippendale-style furniture‚ crystal chandeliers‚ disco balls and other items that had been part of the old Mount Airy Lodge.
“Forty thousand people came to the auction‚ and they were there all weekend long‚ so that gives you an idea of the popularity of the resort‚” Feeley says. “It confirmed how much the Mount Airy name was worth.”
The name is worth a lot‚ indeed. Once the largest resort in the Poconos‚ Mount Airy’s 900 rooms were contin uously booked months in advance by honeymooners‚ convention-goers and middle-class families from New York‚ New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Stars appeared there regularly‚ including Bob Hope and Tony Bennett‚ and in Mount Airy’s heyday in the 1960s and ’70s‚ it grossed upwards of $50 million a year. The new owners hope to capitalize on that historical significance‚ while complementing‚ not competing‚ with existing attractions in the Poconos.
“The resort will have 400 rooms – about half the number of rooms in the old lodge – because we realize there are approximately 2‚200 hotel rooms in a 15-minute radius of Mount Airy‚ and we want to fill up those rooms as well‚” Feeley says. “We’re here to serve the region. Mount Airy should drive the mountain‚ but it’s not the only thing on the mountain.”
Construction on the $400 million project began in July 2006 and‚ when complete‚ it will feature a full-service spa and exercise center‚ nature trails‚ an 18-hole golf course‚ indoor pool‚ conference center‚ coffee shop‚ restaurants‚ tennis courts‚ a 27-acre lake and a 68‚000-square-foot gaming area.
“It’s going to look like the Poconos resorts of the 19th and 20th centuries‚ with a rustic elegance and massive three-story fireplaces‚” Feeley says.
“It will be a keystone of a resurgence in the Pocono tourism industry and will provide some significant dollars and jobs to the area‚” says Doug Harbach‚ director of media relations for the Pennsylvania Gaming Board.
Feeley couldn’t agree more.
“Mount Airy will be the best thing for the local economy in at least a generation‚” he says. “We started getting calls for reservations when Mr. DeNaples first bought the property and nothing was there yet‚ and we’re still getting reservation requests. There’s a great following of Mount Airy – people are very anxious. We will count on their patronage in the future.”