Street near Isle of Capri casino named for former executive

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
The first shipment of slot machines arrive to the Isle of Capri Monday, July 16, 2012 in Cape Girardeau. The shipment contained 100 of the 1000 total slot machines that will be inside the casino when it is complete. (Laura Simon)

The city and Isle of Capri celebrated the life of a former casino executive during a ceremony Monday dedicating a street at Isle's Cape Girardeau site as Paul Keller Way.

Monday also marked the arrival of the first 100 slot machines at the casino property on North Main Street. When it opens this fall, the casino will have 1,000 slot machines in addition to table games, several restaurants and an event center.

With the exterior now mostly complete, work is focused on the building's interior in preparation to open by Nov. 1.

Paul Keller was Isle of Capri's vice president and chief development officer and played a key role in negotiations with the city to bring the casino development here. He died in April at age 57 after a battle with cancer.

An engineer with an MBA who spent his early career with Disney and also worked for Trump Entertainment Resorts and Argosy Gaming Co., Keller joined Isle in 2008.

From left, Jim Riley, David Knight, Richard Meister, Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger, Trent Summers, Kelly Green, Isle of Capri CEO Virginia McDowell, Loretta Schneider, John Voss and Scott Meyer reveal Paul Keller Way, which leads to the Isle of Capri Monday, July 16, 2012 in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Mayor Harry Rediger said the new street, off Big Bend Road, was named Paul Keller Way for a reason.

"Because it's always been Paul Keller's way. As we travel this street, we can really recognize this actually is and was and will be Paul Keller's Way," Rediger said.

In addition to the street, which trucks will use to make deliveries to the casino loading dock, the casino's skydeck restaurant that overlooks the Mississippi will also be named Keller's in his honor.

"He could look intuitively at a piece of property and see not empty land but a completed building," Isle CEO Virginia McDowell said.

Keller's work transforming the Argosy Casino in Kansas City was recognized by the American Gaming Association as the Best Architectural Re-Design for a Casino Resort. Keller also had a leadership role at Walt Disney Imagineering and was active in the development of EPCOT Center and Tokyo Disneyland.

At Isle, Keller became well known for the advice he gave to casino managers when turning over a property he had designed to them. His advice, "Keep the beer cold and the wings hot," was displayed on an airplane banner that flew over the ceremony.

In addition to McDowell and Rediger, city councilmen John Voss and Trent Summers spoke during the event.

"From the first moment I saw Paul's warm smile and shook his hand, I knew we were dealing with a class act," Voss said.

Voss compared Keller's vision for the Isle Cape Girardeau casino with the vision of the former Roberts, Johnson and Rand Shoe Co., which was once at the site where the casino is now under construction. In the early 1900s, the factory employed hundreds of people.

"They had hopes to build this region up and spur the economy. Once again today we find that realization is coming true. This development is again spurring the economy of Cape Girardeau," Voss said.

The city has streets named after the three shoe company founders, Roberts, Johnson and Rand, so Voss said it is fitting to add a street named after another visionary who helped bring prosperity to Cape Girardeau.

Keller's wife, mother and daughter attended Monday's ceremony along with about 50 other city and casino officials.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

777 N. Main St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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