Beyond the Casino Floor

In major metro markets from Dallas to Atlanta, a number of highly successful casino resorts in the Southeast are creating new non-gaming amenity offerings that specifically reach out to upscale clientele who desire more out of their casino resort experience.

WinStar World Casino Resort, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Coushatta Casino Resort are three such examples, where recent additions focused on fine dining restaurants, ultra-lounge nightclubs, luxury spa amenities and high-end hotel accommodations, all to meet the prevailing demands of the metro market. While each resort continues to pull from their distinct metropolitan area, the overall target demographic is expanding and so are their design requirements.

As these properties promote themselves in the marketplace, designers at Hnedak Bobo Group (HBG) are evolving the exterior and interior designs simultaneously to ensure a consistent customer experience across the entire spectrum—from arrival to amenity. HBG is an award-winning design firm working in the tribal and commercial gaming industry. Last year, the firm received three G2E Casino Design Awards and the prestigious NIGA Associate Member of the Year recognition.

Entrance of WinStar World Casino Resort
Entrance of WinStar World Casino Resort
WinStar World Casino Resort
At WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla., the property’s established “cities of the world” travel theme has been successful in making the resort the No. 1 casino in the Dallas gaming market. The recent expansion adds new non-gaming amenities and offers a fresh design interpretation of the property’s popular theme.

“The travel-themed motif at the casino is very closely tied to the WinStar World Casino brand,” says Rob Jurbergs, AIA, principal and lead architectural designer/interior architect at Hnedak Bobo Group, “so HBG naturally embraced and enhanced the concept in the expansion design, which is being delivered in phases.”

Phase one is now open and includes an improved exterior arrival experience, a Paris-themed casino, events and F&B expansion. Jurbergs’ inspiration for the new upscale design captures the excitement and wonder of faraway voyages in the gilded age of travel, featuring literal themed elements set within the context of a refined interpretation of the famed “city of lights.” For instance, a new elaborate porte cochère-covered entryway features a signature metal replica of the 1960 World’s Fair Globe. “It’s a nod to the travel theme, with a historical reference that automatically elevates the perception of the brand,” states Jurbergs. Stylistic vintage travel murals flank the porte cochère, creating a new front door experience that helps to introduce the brand to new amenities within the Paris expansion.

Jurbergs worked with HBG Interior Designer Emily Marshall, IIDA, to ramp up the quality level of the new interiors, while creating synergy between the existing casino and several new dining and event offerings. “New venues are organized along a thematic Parisian street side cafe complete with patio dining, sky murals and real cobblestone pavers,” says Marshall. “The organization along this internal street activates the relationship between new dining and event venues and the existing casino floor.”

At the transition point between the new Paris expansion and the property’s existing Beijing-themed casino is WinStar’s new Mist events venue. Integrating a subtle Asian design scheme for theme continuity, the venue caters to an entertainment-focused clientele, as well as a regional meetings market. “We have integrated ambient and spot lighting, furniture, finishes and meticulously selected Asian-inspired patterns,” says Marshall. “When the lights dim, the combination of these elements transforms Mist from a meeting venue into an atmospheric nightclub, making it the ultimate work-to-play flex space.” A double-sided bar changes to serve either the adjacent pre-function area or the large multi-function room, while the close proximity of back-of-house storage space further supports Mist’s conversion ability.

“Next to Mist is Capisce Bistro, a more intimate, high-end restaurant environment for WinStar,” says Marshall. “Its ‘vintage villa’ inspired theme translates into an elegant Old World European design.” Stone clad facing on the fireplace combines with large book-matched, burled walnut veneer wine cabinets and bar fronts to imbue old style charm. A decorative wood-trimmed ceiling, oversized European countryside art and antique mirrors accent the space.

La Paris Café, a new “grab and go” restaurant offering healthy menu options and WinStar’s new El Fenix Mexican restaurant round out the worldly amenity offerings along the new Paris street side cafe. When WinStar’s second expansion opens in June 2013, the new design interpretation of this popular brand promises again to transport patrons back to the grand days of travel, this time to exciting London.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Relaxation Lounge at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort
Relaxation Lounge at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, in Cherokee, N.C., pulls steady traffic from the Atlanta market. It recently added the international Mandara Spa to the resort’s amenity offerings. The new 18,000-square-foot spa is an upscale respite from gaming or outdoor activities in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. “We were inspired to meet the design standards of the Mandara brand,” says Craig Conrad, AIA, principal and project manager at HBG, “while also giving tribute to Cherokee tribal influences found throughout the resort.”

Cherokee’s newest spa is a contemporary interpretation of Mandara’s Balinese heritage. Both modern and mystical, the design combines both eastern and western traditions. Asian touches are warmed by use of natural materials. Carved wooden accents, rich granite, decorative lighting and neutral-colored interior elements emphasize the luxuriousness of the spa facilities, including private spa therapy rooms and a relaxation lounge with outside patio area.

Coushatta CasinoCoushatta Casino Resort Main Lobby
Coushatta Casino Resort Main Lobby
Just outside another major metropolitan market, the Coushatta Casino Resort, which draws customers from Houston and across Southern Louisiana, looked to hotel expansion as a means to stay competitive. “The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana wanted to boost customer convenience, while redefining their brand in the marketplace,” says Aron Ramage, AIA, associate and lead designer/interior architect at HBG.

Developed by DreamCatcher Hotels and designed by Hnedak Bobo Group, the Seven Clans Hotel at Coushatta Casino Resort integrates both customer convenience and a higher-quality guest experience into the new 401-room property, which sits adjacent to the Coushatta Casino.

“Based on the fact that the typical hotel guest spends most of his/her time inside the hotel, the design centers around the interiors,” says Greg Hnedak, founding partner of DreamCatcher Hotels. “We focused on bringing a sense of practical luxury to the hotel stay with unique touch points and concentrated design features in impactful places.”

As the main lobby is dedicated largely to circulation between lodging and entertainment zones of the property, creating volume became a critical design element. “We elevated the perception of a larger living-room lobby space using huge expanses of glass with views to the outside and tall ceilings that stepped down from the soft seating areas into smaller more intimate retail spaces,” says Ramage. Each food and beverage venue adds visual variety and spatial quality to the lobby, creating a “market street” environment.

“We believe the defining moment of the guest experience begins after they turn the doorknob to their room,” says Hnedak. “Moments of Truth” start with ambiance created by customized room lighting that accentuates the rich grain of the wood in the custom case goods design. In the bath, inexpensive tile surrounds the shower, but is accented by a linear mosaic of opalescent tile, highlighted by a light above that brings the focus to the higher-quality feature.

Looking at customer reviews as a key indicator of the property’s success, the Seven Clans Hotel appears to be successful in its efforts to attract new and returning patrons. Ramage adds: “Guests are extremely pleased with the design results. So far, I have heard ‘I love this hotel,’ ‘the shower was glorious’ and ‘I can’t wait to go back.’ I’m glad that DreamCatcher Hotel’s concept and HBG’s design is giving customers what they really want—that’s what keeps them coming back.”

HBG is thrilled to be design partners with each of these clients. WinStar, Cherokee and Coushatta are all extremely successful properties; and we at HBG like to think that our integrated interior architecture is contributing in part to that success. What each property shares in common, however, is their overriding philosophy of continual growth. These resorts are ultimately successful because they keep moving forward to accommodate the varying needs of their primary markets.

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