Designing The Casino: Renovations & Updates

Renovating the casino is like a new industry for designers, builders and the owners of the gaming properties. Gaming has provided some sort of enterprise for many of the gaming operators across the world. In order to stay competitive with the online casinos, like Admiral Casino, many land-based operators are opting to add more hotel rooms, restaurants, spas, entertainment centres and other amenities that will set them apart from anyone else. For example, this year we see a forward-thinking of some operators that can’t stand still and will always have to move forward.

A Total Makeover
A very cool idea can spread across three properties and are linked to a one time frame. The Ho-Chunk Nation has launched three expansion and renovation projects: at Wisconsin Dells, Black River Falls and Wittenberg, Wisconsin. The combined effect of the three properties will visually unite a reinterpretation of the Ho-Chunk brand. There will be a common design language, however, it will still give to each property an individuality through design features.

Ho-Chunk selected the highly decorated HBG Design from Memphis to deal with all three properties. Dike Bacon, CEO of HBG said that each property has comprised more than 100.000 square feet and by 2018, all three renovations were complete. The CEO also added that brand repositioning can sometimes be different than a simple property expansion. It is because the brand can require a definitive long-term vision for the brand that is often bigger than a single current project.

He also said that fundamentally the best approach to any expansion is done within the context of how best to express a brand holistically. In addition, each of the Ho-Chunk Nation’s completed new projects received new entry experiences with new porte cochere structures that prominently integrates the branded architectural accents and the Ho-Chunk Gaming logo identity.

Dike Bacon also indicated that building geometry, site positioning and design implementations of the new expansion vary at each property, but the key materiality and colour palettes blend across all the properties. Special attention was given to integration of tribal cultural elements in unique, abstract ways. He also noted that each design stands out because of its contemporary, sophisticated interpretation of Wisconsin’s unique landscape and the unexpected details derived from this inspiration.
The name Wisconsin Dells comes from the Dells of the Wisconsin River, which is a scenic gorge that features striking sandstone formations along the river banks. This powerful effect was created because water was the main feature that sculpted the sandstone in time. The “iconic striation” patterns of these formations inspired HBG designers to create bold architectural statements.

Dike Bacon said that they added a grand new hotel lobby with a spectacular two-story interior feature where the wall was crafted from natural birch wood slats. They were horizontally stacked and linearly placed to give a dramatic curved form. The wall design was influenced by the natural striation patterns found on the Dells. The wall then extends visually through the exterior towards a window wall that gives the feeling that you are looking through a fireplace. A similar effect was added to the exterior as well.

The Black River Falls property is the birthplace of the Ho-Chunk Tribe, the landscape where the property resides is the source of this tribe’s culture. This location, the North Woods is a landscape shaped by abundant forests with towering evergreens. Dike Bacon said that this inspiration has led to Sunset Tree Wall. Their designers have thought of a sunset in a snow-covered winter morning through the trees of the pine forest.

The bottom of the Sunset Tree Wall mimics a horizon line where all shadows move away from the center in order to “meet the property’s arriving guests”. The exterior wall is illuminated and visible from the nearby interstate.

Potawatomi Hotel & Casino Expansion
This property is the definition of relationship building, between Potawatomi Community and Cuningham Group. The architecture firm from Minnesota has cherished its relationship with some casino properties ever since the land-based casinos has become a major industry player in the 80s.

Cuningham Group has numerous honors and design projects of various sizes which helped establish long-run ties with their clients. The firm’s dynamic with the Forest County Potawatomi Community reflects that kind of trend. After just 5 years since the designing of the original property, Cuningham Group has to do a presentation of an expansion.

In addition, the firm has designed an expansion to the Potawatomi hotel tower that added 119 rooms and suites. In the end the hotel became the second-largest hotel in Milwaukee, because of its total room count of 500. The property is owned and operated by Potawatomi Community and the 189.000 square foot expansion also features a spa and additional meeting space. The hotel is expected to open this year.

The heroic tower is located in downtown Milwaukee, and the design gracefully reflects the emerald green water of Lake Michigan, and it has become an iconic gem of Milwaukee’s skyline. The new rooms, suites and spa, and amenities will also provide a wonderful attraction and will give the best guest experience possible.

The tower integrates both traditional Milwaukee architecture and modern design. The design also reflects area’s culture and geography with added subtle nods to the storied history of the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe. The materials and color of the base of the hotel reflects the character of the industrial buildings from Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley, as well as the casino. In order to reflect the modern entertainment, the hotel tower rises from its masonry base that is adorned in a combination of green-tinted transparent and opaque glass. The glass is made in order to take on the look of Lake Michigan’s shimmery waves on a sunny day.

The top floor features a floating prow-like roofline, where several suites are housed. In addition, at the top of the hotel’s tower is a glass-enclosed flame which makes reference to Forest County Potawatomi’s “Keepers of the Fire”, which is intended to welcome guests. For Potawatomi Community, this stage is their latest evolution of a business that was launched in 1991.

A New Sensation
Soboba Casino has operated in a tent structure since 1995. However, 2 years ago a construction began on a new replacement casino with a 200-room hotel that will also feature a conference center, pool and gym. The residents watched the development growing like magic. Last summer the exterior of the building was painted in shades of beige and earth tones. Flooring went down and electrical power came in.

The finishing touches came with moving in the furniture, tiling the pool area and provide a landscape. The process ended in the early 2019 by unveiling the property in a flush of Las Vegas feel. Soboba Casino has a roomy gaming floor, a modern decor, spacious rooms, options of food and drinks ranging from prime rib to lychee martinis.

Scott Cozart, chairman of Soboba Band said that they were excited to see this long-awaited dream become reality. Soboba showed a huge gaming leap, because it changed its identity by denoting the property as a destination for gaming, shopping and dining. The location is adjacent to the Country Club at Soboba Springs and is less than a mile from the existing casino. This short distance looks like another world.

Friedmutter Group was the firm that has a major role, as planner master, architect of record, design architect, interior design and construction administration. The firm was like a one-stop shop in an ambitious casino redefinition. When the construction will be completed, the new casino will replace the tent-structure and will offer a wide range of features.

The site include 510.000 square feet of new construction and 110.000 square feet of gaming, and the finished product features a 200-room hotel tower, 10.000 square-foot lobby and 30.000 square feet of food and beverage. The whole package includes 15.000 square feet of conference space and 2000-space of parking lot.

In addition, Soboba will showcase a 480.000 square-foot casino resort and a 90.000 square-foot gaming floor. The gaming lineup will have 2.000 slot machines with all kinds of slots and 32 tables games, like poker, blackjack, roulette. The gaming lineup also has a sports lounge and a high-roller room. On the food and beverage part, there is a noodle restaurant, a food court and a cafe that is open 24/7. There is also an event venue that is 15.000 square feet. In other words, the casino has become the largest tourism driver in San Jacinto County.

Choctaw Nation Expansion
The Choctaw Casino & Resort from Durant, Oklahoma has launched its fourth expansion since 2006. In April has been scheduled perhaps the most transformative project. The expansion will consist in adding 1000 hotel rooms and suites. The whole work will take 2 years to finish.

Kristina Humenesky, Director of Public Relations of The Choctaw Casino & Resort said that this is a very exciting time for them, where they are both delighted and honoured to be considered a top 5 casino. This project will increase the casinos capacity with more gaming space, more amenities such as new pools, a lazy river, parking garage, retail space, conference center, entertainment options and food and beverage.

JCJ Architecture is the firm that will deal with the design-build. Peter N. Stevens, LEED AP, president of JCJ Architecture has worked with Choctaw Nation for over 10 years. Because JCJ Architecture has worked with the casino in the past on their cultural center, wellness center, public safety headquarters and maintenance, it has proved that there is a strong relationship between the two. Stevens believes that creativity, experience and talent will bring a truly leading property to the Oklahoma/Dallas-Fort market.

The property in Durant has opened in 2006 and it consisted of more than 100.000 square feet. In 2010, the casino was expanded with a Grand Tower, and the most recent renovation was in 2015, by adding another hotel tower with a spa, a Grand Theater and an entertainment center called The District.

Choctaw has built smartly, it expanded far enough to accommodate new business without overreaching. The resort also grown into a AAA Four Diamond resort where it offers luxurious rooms and suites, a Spa Tower that features a full-service spa and salon that offers hair, nails and makeup services. There is also a three-level convention venue where it offers over 100.000 square feet of convention space.

Not to forget about the amenities offered which consists in Oasis Pool area with four tropical pools and private cabanas, as well as The District. The entertainment complex, visitors can enjoy Tailgaters sports bar, 20 bowling lanes, 40-game arcade and a state of the art movie theatre. The casino gaming complex offers more than 4100 slot machines, 60 table games, a private poker lounge that includes 30 poker tables.

At The Sea
Quinault Beach Resort & Casino can be found in Ocean Shores, Washington and it embraces a burgeoning gaming-vacation market. Quinault has asked Thalden Boyd Emery to lead the renovation project, which was completed in June 2018. Jim Morrison, the director of code for TBE said that the expansion and renovation covered 29.000 square feet and it features the addition of a buffet and kitchen space, new gaming space, a bar, new carpeting throughout the entire casino floor and added a gift shop in the gaming area.

Nick Schoenfeldt, Vice President and Principal at TBE believes that the project has enhanced the entire functionality of the establishment. They often see tribal properties go through phased growth and Schoenfeldt says that with this recent renovation and expansion, the Quinault Nation was able to bring back several machines that were given away to other casinos. In addition, the project also increased in terms of gaming and dining.

The previous design had few cultural influences, however with this expansion, the Quinault symbolism will be added throughout the property, from carpeting to welcomes totems.

David Nejelski, Creative Director and Principal at TBE said that tribal cultural expression was paramount in the setup. He said that culture and art are two themes that are interwoven throughout the new casino expansion and it is expressed through inspired designs and finishes as well as unique art pieces. A new custom carpet design was used, which created a bold expression of Quinault identity. The design was used on a large-scale patterns directly inspired by a character found in the traditional artwork.

Near the entry to the buffet, two large, hand-hewn welcome figures were custom crafted and placed in order to greet the guests and provide a dramatic example of traditional wood-carving skills. Throughout the place an ocean-going heritage is celebrated where the rhythm of the ocean waves is rendered in a variety of finishes and acts as a backdrop to a large coastal canoe, which is hand-carved and painted in traditional style.

The centerpiece of traditional life acts as a centerpiece of the space as well. Ornately carved and painted paddles are also on display, which further enhanced the cultural connection to the sea. In addition, the center of the casino has a dramatic 360-degree entertainment bar-in-round which infuses the gaming floor with excitement that incorporates light shows, live music and other entertainment.

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine Founder and co-publisher Art of Conversation and founder of the platform @worldoffad