Local 374 members build base for floating casino

Workers combine six barges in Lake Michigan project

Barges serve as the floating foundation of Harrah’s new Horseshoe Casino Hammond on Lake Michigan in Indiana
Barges serve as the floating foundation of Harrah’s new Horseshoe Casino Hammond on Lake Michigan in Indiana

MEMBERS OF LOCAL 374 (Hammond, Ind.) have completed the base for a 350,000-square-foot gaming and entertainment facility on Lake Michigan. Harrah’s all-new Horseshoe Casino Hammond will be triple the size of the company’s current facility, and the largest casino and entertainment destination in Chicagoland, when it is completed.

“This was a great job for Local 374,” reports L-374 BM-ST Paul Maday. “And there is already talk of other casino expansions on the lakefront using the same barge-type foundation. You know the old adage — ‘bigger is better’? Well, it’s true, with talk of other casinos now wanting to expand, using as many as eight barges for their foundations. We are in the process of confirming with the gaming commission if licenses for expansion have been applied for, so we can pursue the work.”

Working for Chicago Bridge & Iron, Local 374 members began the Harrah’s project in April 2007 and completed their part in February. At peak, there were 120 Boilermakers at the site, working a total of 160,230 man-hours.

Each barge measures 105 feet by 305 feet and arrived one at a time from a nonunion shipyard in St. Louis.

: Local 374 members join two barges together. In all, they connected six barges to create the base for Harrah’s new floating casino.
: Local 374 members join two barges together. In all, they connected six barges to create the base for Harrah’s new floating casino.

Six barges make the casino foundation. All welds were made by certified Boilermakers. Local 374 members connected the vessels, performing all the work from the top deck down, including all penetrations and sleeves going through any part of the vessels.

According to Terry Boswell, an Assistant Business Manager for Local 374, another Boilermaker contractor, Morrison Construction, came on site last June. Harrah’s hired 20 Boilermakers to work with Morrison and the marine engineers to do structural support revisions. These members also set three thrusters to enable the boat to move on the water and installed all mooring beams and an apron that went around the barges to complete the perimeter of the boat. They will be on site until the casino is commissioned.

The barges will support six levels: a catwalk for lighting and maintenance work, a 108,000-square-foot gaming area, two mezzanines, and two levels for event centers (one with seating for 3,000 viewers and a 650-seat buffet, the other with VIP seating). The entire structure — a $485 million vessel resembling a floating convention hall — should be completed by Sept. 1. The existing Horseshoe Casino, a four-level catamaran-style vessel, will remain in operation until the new structure is completed and then will be sold.

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