From concerts and comedy to corporate seminars and boxing matches, few venues straddle the line between meetings and entertainment in the same way. To accommodate their diverse demographics, casinos are adapting their event spaces to become the ideal multi-purpose venue.
It is noteworthy that we say “multi-purpose” rather than “all-purpose.” In its 15 plus years of event space design, BLT Architects (BLTa) has found that the most successful concepts are adaptable to the needs of a few core audiences rather than trying to be everything to everyone. This strategic approach was the owners’ inspiration for the design of Bensalem, Pa.-based Parx Casino’s new Xcite Center.
Details such as its size and location offered the most obvious indications of events Parx was best suited to host. After surveying competitors and researching the casino’s accessibility and target audiences, it was determined that the Xcite Center would excel as a mid-sized venue with 1,500 seats and room for 1,700 standing guests.
Once we understood which event groups Parx aimed to attract, it came time to implement a flexible design that foremost accommodated these types of events.
TECHNOLOGY TO THE RESCUE
Technologically, there has been a convergence where tech that used to be only in performance venues has found its way into meeting spaces. In the case of casinos, the two are often the same. Fortunately, the options in tech bridges and projection booths can be highly personalized for the group that will be using them.
For instance, adjustable lighting is now a given. Beyond dimming options and repositionable heads, event lighting can accommodate a myriad of colors. While this is a near-necessity for concerts, it can be equally desirable for corporate customers, adding a festive mood to a holiday party or on-brand theme lighting for a company retreat or seminar.
The ability to support simulcast, the broadcasting of programs or events across more than one medium, has also become an important feature for various types of groups. Moveable smart screens allow groups to show presentations, live stream social media content or display images like logos at the same time, and high-speed wireless connections have become a new minimum requirement.
Soundproofing is always a critical consideration. In the case of a casino, attention must also be paid to ensure gaming patrons are not disturbed, nor is gaming activity heard by event attendees. Furthermore, within the space, acoustics should accommodate a variety of sound profiles. While a grand concert hall might be designed with an orchestra in mind, the multi-purpose event space should strike a balance for the needs of diverse customers.
Aesthetically and structurally in a flexible event space, less is more. After all, it is easier to add than to take away.
Open floor plans are the foundation of the multi-purpose venue. To segment this blank canvas, partitions are available in a variety of materials and price ranges from manual curtains up to electric systems of top-hung, moveable walls.
When it comes to permanent fixtures, the key word is “understated.” At the Parx Xcite Center, finishes were selected that are high end but not overtly luxe. The aesthetic of a venue should exude quality, but not project a particular style.
If a fixture does not need to be permanent, stow it away. Retractable chandeliers, for instance, can be lowered for a banquet or formal event and just as easily raised for theatrical performances that require house lighting.
Finally, remember that flexibility extends to the back of the house. Dressing and green rooms are an important part of any venue and they can often influence whether talent will return. In designing Parx’s back of house space, attention was paid to what performers, logistics crews and sporting organizations are looking for in a venue.
In summary, most successful multi-purpose event spaces are more than mere blank canvases; they are full of thoughtful elements that accommodate and expand your target customer base.