Looking out over the Indiana shores of Lake Michigan, Ted Bogich, vice president and general manager of Boyd Gaming’s Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa, knows he’s fortunate to have such gorgeous surroundings. He’s also certain that Blue Chip is bringing something extra to them.
“People come throughout the region to enjoy the fun that goes along with the lake,” Bogich says.
Just a couple of miles to the west of Michigan City are the Indiana Dunes State Park and the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore, combining for more than 17,000 acres of boating, hiking, camping, fishing and bird watching.
And not far from the dunes, Blue Chip has brought something new - a sleek 22-story hotel tower, conference center and full-service spa which, combined with a 65,000-square-foot floating casino, have turned a once perfunctory property into a showpiece.
Opened in February, the Blu Tower features 300 luxury rooms and suites housed in blue and green glass, top to bottom, and curved to give every floor an intimate feel.
“It’s something that we think is spectacular and would really stand up with anything even in downtown Chicago,” says Bogich. “From the standpoint of the views, the quality of the finishes, the unique design, it’s at a level that’s higher than the hotel that we had, and certainly in this area the nicest hotel for guests to visit at any gaming establishment.”
Blu Tower’s 10,000-square-foot Spa Blu, with its salon and fitness center, is the first of its kind for any casino within an easy drive of Chicago. The new 20,000-square foot Stardust Event Center hosts conferences, trade shows, headline entertainment and special events. New restaurants include It’s Vegas Baby, themed after - what else? - Las Vegas, with photos, memorabilia and antique slot machines, a stage for live entertainment and a giant plasma display behind the bandstand for multimedia presentations, and The Game, a sports bar with a real Vegas sports book feel. They join William B’s Steakhouse, the Options Buffet and Nelson’s Deli to give guests a full range of dining options.
“It was really designed to transition Blue Chip to a regional entertainment destination, where we would offer a multifaceted experience with, we believe, the most complete collection of guest amenities where we operate,” Bogich says. “You put it all together and it’s a beautiful destination here in the Midwest.”
Still open is the original 184-room Blue Chip Hotel, so guests have a choice of overnight accommodations at two different price points.
The key to Blue Chip’s transformation was the opening of the new casino boat in 2006. The original casino, opened in 1997, housed its games in a typical first-generation riverboat layout on two levels of small spaces with low ceilings. The expanded casino puts all the gaming on a single level. The wide entrance from the pavilion and the 22-foot ceiling offers a panoramic view of the floor. Players are boarding a boat, but it doesn’t feel like it. Once on board they can choose among 48 table games, eight poker tables and 1,940 electronic gaming devices in denominations from a penny to $100.
“Now,” Bogich says, “when people come to Blue Chip it’s, ‘Wow, I didn’t know anything like this existed in Michigan City, I feel like I’m in Las Vegas.’”
Says Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith, “It’s not simply a hotel addition, it’s the completion of the vision we had for this property to create a true regional entertainment resort. If you look at the major gaming entertainment centers, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, what we’ve seen happen over the years is that they’ve evolved from purely casino-centric type properties to more resort destinations with lots of restaurants and shopping and retail, beautiful hotels, entertainment, and a lot to do. That doesn’t exist in many of these regional markets, it doesn’t exist here in this northwest Indiana-Chicago market, and it was our vision to create that here.”
Expanding the reach of Blue Chip is the goal, along with serving the large population centers that surround the area.
“We draw a fairly strong day-trip business from throughout the region,” Bogich says. “We’re surrounded by some pretty significant population centers - whether it be going north to Grand Rapids or south to Indianapolis or west to Chicago, and then everything in between, including the Fort Wayne market, there’s a lot of people for us to draw from.”
Smith says of the new Blue Chip, “We certainly expect that it will expand our reach. This hotel, this product, combined with the casino we have here and the restaurants we have here, will give people a reason to come and spend their money.”
And entering the warm weather season, there’ll be an extra lift from those drawn into the Michigan City area by the lake.
“We do see a little bit of an uptick in the summertime,” Bogich says, “people coming out to visit for the lake, because we’re just off Lake Michigan, and it’s absolutely beautiful in the summertime.”
Blue Chip Facts
- Located on 35 acres in Michigan City, Ind., on the Lake Michigan shoreline N More than 1,900 reel-spinning and video slot machines, 48 table games and eight poker tables
- 1,300 employees
- Opened Aug. 22, 1997
- Dining amenities include William B’s Steakhouse for prime steaks, fresh seafood and pasta, It’s Vegas Baby for classic American and Asian-inspired dishes and live entertainment, The Game sports bar and grill, Options Buffet and Nelson’s Deli
- The new Blu Tower contains 270 luxury rooms and 30 suites
- The new 20,000-square-foot Stardust Event Center accommodates trade shows, meetings and conferences, stage productions and concerts
- The new 10,000-square-foot Spa Blu features nine treatment rooms for facials and massages, a full-service salon with a private makeover room for wedding parties and other groups and individual men’s and women’s lounges with steam rooms, experiential showers and whirlpools highlighted with water walls