The Imperial Palace Casino, better known as IP Casino, was originally constructed in the late 1990s on the south shoreline of Biloxi, Mississippi’s Back Bay as a permanently moored, floating casino. The three-floor casino vessel sat on nine hopper barges welded together as a single unit. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic damage to many casinos in the area, and a state law that required all casinos float on the water was reversed.
In 2011, Thompson Engineering began the effort to construct a graving dock to dry dock the IP Casino vessel in its current moorings. Thompson’s design provides a long-term extension to the life of the gaming vessel and will reduce maintenance costs and provide dry access to the vessel hull for easier repairs and maintenance. It will also help the vessel better survive a major storm event in the future.
This project was an interesting one that, at first, many people questioned. Thompson’s design essentially turned the floating IP Casino into a land-based vessel, without moving it, and while it remained fully operational. How was that possible? The area under and around the existing casino vessel was dredged to remove about 33,300 cubic yards of silt, clay,and sand. Then, the area around the vessel was enclosed with 820 linear feet of sheet pile cofferdam. In less than desirable conditions and near-zero visibility, underwater divers helped build a 615-footlong by 130-foot wide graving dock structure made of structural steel blocking frame encompassed by a concrete mat foundation. At the time, it was one of the world’s largest continuous underwater concrete pours. The area outside of the sheet pile was backfilled, and the project was completed.
The dry dock project was completed at a cost that was less than 30% of the cost of new construction on land. Some of the projects other notable accomplishments include:
In 2015, the IP Casino Dry Dock project was recognized by Engineering News Record (ENR) as the year’s “Best Specialty Construction Project.”