LINCOLN, R.I. - Alan Burchill has his next big date all planned out, and he's heading just down the highway to Twin River.
"It's right in our backyard," the Pawtucket resident said. "I'll bring my date, check out one of the restaurants and play some slots."
That's exactly what officials behind the just opened Twin Rivers, previously Lincoln Park, are hoping to hear a lot more of now that the building has been revamped to put it on par, hopefully, with bigger-name destination gambling facilities.
Friday's grand ribbon-cutting of the $220 million expansion project opened the doors to hundreds of ready patrons, who lined up hours early to get a prime seat at one of the new slot machines.
Over about 18 months, Lincoln Park's slot machine and greyhound racing club went from outdated to Twin River, an innovative upgrade, and now has 4,752 slot machines, a grand room with high ceilings, a set-down bar area, several restaurants, elaborate cashier booths and a multi-purpose theater.
"I'd like to thank everyone individually, but we would be here all day," Len Wolman, principal of BLB Investors, LLC, which owns Twin River. "This is an exciting day. Just wait and see the excitement that unfolds here through the rest of the year."
Walking through the new wing, patrons had much to look at, a world away from the old wing that still exists just through the atrium walkway.
"I think this is beautiful," said Barbara Burchall, who took her son for a visit. "I think they did a wonderful job."
The Burchalls came specifically for the opening. A sometimes-visitor to Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut, Burchall said the Twin River is enough to draw here to stay in Rhode Island instead.
The project was meant to put Twin River in line with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, also in Connecticut, which are big-time draws for Rhode Island and Massachusetts residents who visit gambling facilities.
Twin River, named for its location at the confluence of two rivers in the Blackstone Valley, still is behind Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in its number of slot machines and in the fact that it lacks a hotel and other amenities, but officials are hoping the expansion will be enough to keep people in Rhode Island.
Twin River and Newport Grand are expected to bring in $255 million in revenue this year, and pay the state about 60 percent of that slot machine revenue. That translates to about 7.5 percent of the state's revenue.
Rhode Island State Senate President Joe Montabano and other officials gave remarks at the opening, expressing their appreciation for patrons' patience during construction, for the some 600 jobs created by the project, and the opportunity for lawmakers of both political parties to work together, creating a lucrative opportunity for the state.
"Today, we celebrate both the vision of BLB Investors and their commitment to the state," Montabano said. "I'm proud to be a part of another example of leaders working together for the good of the people."
In addition to the slot machines, Twin River already has opened in January Fado's Irish Pub, which was built entirely in Ireland shipped here, piece by piece. It features lively night-life offerings. Steve's Steakhouse, a 200-seat high-end steakhouse and sports bar also was unveiled, and Carmine's, a New York City-based Italian restaurant chain will open at the end of the month.
A 320-seat all-you-can eat buffet also opened, and the Catch A Rising Star Comedy Club moved to its new location, near the steakhouse. The Twin River Event Center, a 29,000 square foot arena for concerts and other events will open in April.
In all, the project added 160,00 square feet to the facility.