Future Focused Series: Construction and Design

How do you help your Tribal clients build for next generations?

Every issue we’re talking to folks who have assisted Tribal casinos with their visions, from bare dirt to hanging the perfect art on the wall. We’ll be exploring everything from new builds, additions, remodels, procurement and the technology and challenges that accompany these projects. To set the stage, in this first column, we asked our experts one question, “What are your Tribal clients saying is most important to them moving forward, and how do you get them there?” Here’s what they had to say:

Bob GdowskiBob Gdowski, Principal, Director of Hospitality Design, JCJ Architecture

“The focus is inevitably always on tomorrow. Growth and relevance are the targets. The core of any successful master plan is providing a framework for future growth. Every plan we draw has an overlay that shows where the next hotel tower can go, how the casino floor can expand, how the conference center can expand and how an event or entertainment district can be added. While it is not important that we design what tomorrow looks like, it is imperative that we are planning for growth; that we are allowing a property to provide for what the market may demand in the future. Equally important is how a property maintains its relevance in an increasingly competitive industry. This does not mean generating a design that can thrive for decades, but rather bringing to market designs that help define a brand and experience; designs that start to embed storylines and narratives in their guests; designs that plant a memorable seed within every visitor. For Tribal clients that already have a following of loyal guests, the focus becomes one of expansion and evolution without ostracizing an established guest base. This becomes an exercise in aspirational design, creating experiences that may not fall in the comfort zone of an existing guest, but are seen by them as aspirational. In doing this, a property is able to expand their reach in terms of guest base, while at the same time maintaining and inspiring their current base.”

Jennifer FlemmingJennifer Fleming, Jennifer has a accountPrincipal – Interior Designer, Rice Fergus Miller

“Our approach to working with Tribal hospitality clients is to create a boutique experience that is unique to each Tribe, location and culture. When you think about a traveler choosing a boutique hotel over a large branded property, there is something personal and distinctive about what a standalone property offers you that, in most cases, you just don’t get from one of the big hospitality brands. We believe that Tribal hospitality is just that, a place where a completely unique design solution can be created that sets a property apart in an ever-growing and expanding industry where competition is on the rise. Crafting an experience for a guest that is one of a kind can be that draw to differentiate a property from the next, whether that is a branded property or the nearest Tribal gaming property. Flexibility and a focus on operations is so critical in any design solution, and unfortunately in many cases this is overlooked or value engineered out. When you think about the inner workings of a casino resort operation and the way people, product and services have to move and be housed in an efficient and effective way, this can all contribute significantly to the success of a property. Take the gaming floor of a casino as an example. When you think about the way that slot machines and technology have changed over the years, allocation of square footage per machine has grown. When planning, if you allocate more than industry average and the budget can afford it, you are automatically building in not only flexibility for slots and games to expand their footprints, but this also allows for the addition of games over time, which of course all hits the bottom line. The way guests interact with guest service is also evolving, so the addition of ticket redemption and service-based kiosks allows for a wider reach across a gaming floor. Rather than a centralized cage or players club, you can distribute those touchpoints across a floor and, in many cases, this can optimize and streamline staffing needs at a property, which in the service industry is always a huge challenge that most, if not all, of our clients face.”

Chris CreaseyChris Creasey, Director of Business Development, Tutor Perini Building Corp

“I think one of the biggest things now is planning for the future. In early design layouts, nobody expected Indian gaming to take off like it has. When it came time to do some expansions, work was rather difficult. Everyone now has a better mindset of what could happen in the future, and they want to plan accordingly. As for the interior design aspect, I believe that designers are using materials that are fresh and exciting. They are also incorporating these elements in a way that they can be changed out in the future rather easily to accommodate where interior design will be years from now.”

Sam OlbeksonSam Olbekson, Principal and Director of Native American Design, Cuningham Group

“Tribal communities are proud of their unique cultural identities and the economic expansions that gaming facilities help generate. Tribes are demanding architecture that provides an authentic, respectful and contemporary reflection of their unique cultures. Preserving and expressing Tribal identity is critically important to cultural survival as Tribes look to long-term community development and cultural revitalization. This long-term approach is also being applied increasingly to gaming operations. Tribes are calling for their gaming facilities to master plan strategically and comprehensively for long-term potential growth opportunities. Too often, gaming facilities are not designed to allow for seamless and efficient expansions or the flexibility of new development opportunities as markets shift and grow. Creating comprehensive master plans that guide strategic future growth is critical to every design project before any individual expansion or renovation to ensure that Tribal funds are spent wisely and properties don’t develop in ways that hinder future growth. Gaming developments can be driven by both operational and cultural design goals. A Tribe’s unique cultural identity can help a facility differentiate it from other gaming properties and provide an opportunity to express a strong commitment to a culturally rich and thriving community.”