Greener things

The $300 million expansion of Pechanga Resort Casino included a 4.5 acre landscape design that meets a number of important resort and tribal needs



Pechanga's 4.5 acre landscape design
Part of Pechanga's 4.5 acre landscape design overseen by Lifescapes International


Lifescapes International, the landscape architectural firm responsible for iconic resort and casino landscapes such as the Bellagio and the Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa, has recently completed a landscape design for the $300 million expansion of the Pechanga Resort Casino, which makes the Temecula, Calif.-based property the largest Four-Diamond casino resort on the west coast.  

“Pechanga’s new expansion delivers a premium resort guest experience that sets it apart in the industry,” said Roger Voettiner, vice president of design for Lifescapes International. “We have created a luxurious atmosphere comprised of multiple pools and spas, all with unique offerings; spacious event lawns, intimate dining patios, and lush, culturally-inspired gardens, giving guests a variety of options for relaxation and entertainment.”

The project, which doubled the size of the resort by adding an additional 568 rooms and suites, includes the addition of five pools, a poolside dining area and swim-up bar, family pool with slide and beach entry, four whirlpool spas (one with a natural rock waterfall feature), a two-story standalone luxury spa, two new restaurants, and a green roof garden and Zen space that features native plant species, private patios and Native American art installations atop a new 40,000 square-foot ballroom.

“This project is thoughtfully designed, and will serve as a beautiful homage to the culture and history of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, who have inhabited the Temecula Valley for thousands of years,” explained Al Amador, senior principal and project designer for Lifescapes International. “Incorporating this rich history was a priority in our design process, and it delivered a depth of inspiration that connects the design to the local community.”

For example, during the expansion, Lifescapes realized that several existing oak trees, with up to 60-foot wide canopies, had to be moved to accommodate several elements of the design.  The trees, however, are sacred to the Pechanga people.

“We immediately went to the leaders of the community to discuss and determine a solution that would preserve the sanctity of these existing trees,” Amador said. “Ultimately, we relocated each tree, carefully placing them throughout the grounds to deliver respect and honor to the Pechanga community.” 

Lifescapes relocated 18 large specimen trees in total, and also installed an additional 10,260 trees and shrubs, while integrating sustainable plant materials throughout the property.

“Sustainability is always a focus in our designs,” Amador said. “Pechanga is situated in a region with intense heat and direct sunlight, making the infusion of drought-tolerant plants crucial to the success of this design. We have created a careful balance between drought-tolerant and lush garden elements, resulting in an energy-efficient, healthy landscape that guests can enjoy regardless of local weather conditions.”

Pechanga Resort Casino officially broke ground on its expansion in December 2015; the new hotel tower opened in December 2017, and the pool complex opened March of 2018. Delawie served as the architect for the expansion, with Tutor Perini as general contractor. 


Finer things

Recent Viejas Casino & Resort expansion includes luxe Willows Hotel & Spa getaway



IGroup Design’s plan for Willows Hotel & Spa
IGroup Design’s plan for Willows Hotel & Spa was to connect guests to local surroundings in all areas of the property.


IGroup Design has added to its growing portfolio of upscale tribal resort projects with the recent opening of the Willows Hotel & Spa at Alpine, Calif.-based Viejas Casino & Resort.

“With every project, our goal is to create a richer human experience; to use architecture and interior design to elevate the way people connect with each other and their surroundings,” said Stephanie Lee, design director for IGroup Design. “That intention was infused into every aspect of the Willows Hotel & Spa, redefining what the casino hotel experience can be.”

The result is a luxe, boutique resort within a resort. Featuring a full-service spa, fitness center, salt water pool, three distinct dining concepts, posh suites and an expanded Viejas Casino.

“We were honored to work with Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians to bring their vision for the expansion to life,” said Roger Storer, IGroup founder. “Our innovative hospitality team creates environments that meld functionality and artistry. The results of our collective approach with clients, architecture and construction partners in combination with our understanding of the industry can be felt in every detail at the Willows.”

These details include:

Inviting the outside in: The hotel was designed at an angle to capture the views toward the soaring Viejas Mountain. It’s all part of IGroup’s inspiration: the natural beauty of the valley, something the team has woven throughout the resort. Natural materials drawn from the area, such as stone and wood, have been refined and polished, with organic patterns that hint at willow leaves, appearing throughout. 

Making it a place to stay: A great resort demands an extended stay, and IGroup’s team has made sure guests will want to. The suites encourage relaxation thanks to a lounge-style living room with finishes in rich woods, soft neutral tones and bursts of gold. The tranquil effect continues into the Willows Spa where clean, white stones and blue mosaics create a feeling of an oasis. 

Creating a place for every taste: Guests looking for dining to fit any mood will find it in IGroup’s design of three new venues: Locale Kitchen & Lounge, the signature restaurant, features a lounge, open kitchen, bar, dining area, enclosed patio and wine cellar; the Daily Roast coffee shop is a pivotal gathering point, where all roads intersect; and the Ginger Noodle Bar embodies a calm atmosphere, rich with abstracted Asian elements and textures. 


Growth story

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa undergoing $700 million expansion



Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa
Rendering of the planned atrium for the expanded Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.


Florida’s biggest casino is getting even bigger.

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa has embarked on a nearly $700 million expansion that will reinforce its position as one of America’s largest casinos, with 5,000 slot machines and almost 200 gaming tables. Slated for completion in mid-2019, the expanded casino will offer one of the largest varieties of slot machines in the nation and will offer guests approximately 200,000 square feet. of entertainment and gaming. 

“Major expansion of the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa is further evidence of the Seminole Tribe’s commitment to the people of Florida that it will continue to increase the economic impact of its Seminole Gaming facilities,” said Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming.

The centerpiece of the expansion is a new 15-story hotel tower with an additional 564 hotel rooms and suites.  In total, the expanded Seminole Hard Rock Hotel will offer approximately 800 guestrooms, including 79 new hotel suites for a new total of 88 suites. For the ultimate VIP experience, the top floor of the new hotel tower will feature a private gaming parlor for VIP guests, with an exclusive check in and private elevators to rock star suites.

Hotel guests will have access to three ultra-lavish new outdoor swimming pools adjacent to the second level of the new hotel tower that will feature a trendy 120-seat Pool Grille restaurant and bar. Measuring the size of a football field, the expanded pool and deck area will be a hot spot for frequent special events for casino guests with the inclusion of day and night life activations. The outdoor pool area is designed by the renowned landscape architecture firm, EDSA 

A new 25,000-square-foot Rock Spa & Salon will also open on the second level of the hotel tower and will offer pool-side services for the ultimate resort experience. The new spa will replace the existing spa and salon.

The property will also continue to elevate their music and entertainment programming with a 30,000-square-foot Seminole Hard Rock Event center.

Architects for the expansion are Klai Juba Wald Architects of Las Vegas. Interior designs are by Wimberly Interiors, Coral Gables, Fla., Laurence Lee Associates, Los Angeles, and Klai Juba Wald Interiors, Las Vegas. The construction team is led by Suffolk Yates.


Name game

Caesars Entertainment to bring Harrah’s-branded tribal casino to Northern California



Harrah’s Northern California Casino
Buena Vista Gaming Authority and Caesars officials at the ground breaking of Harrah’s Northern California Casino.


Caesars Entertainment Corporation has signed a definitive agreement with the Buena Vista Gaming Authority, an entity of the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California, to bring a new 71,000-square-foot Harrah’s-branded facility to Northern California. Complete with gaming and dining options, this announcement furthers Caesars Entertainment’s plan to expand its brands into new markets. 

“This agreement with the Buena Vista Gaming Authority advances our growth strategy to expand the reach of our brands into new markets and reinforces our over 20-year history working with tribal partners,” said Mark Frissora, president and CEO of Caesars Entertainment. 

Caesars Entertainment will provide brand licensing and consulting services for the $168 million casino, to be named Harrah’s Northern California Casino, which will be developed, owned and operated by the Buena Vista Gaming Authority near Sacramento, Calif. The 71,000-square-foot property is expected to open in 2019, and will include 950 state-of-the-art slots, 20 table games, one full-service restaurant and three fast-casual dining concepts. Once operational, Caesars intends to enter into a management agreement with the Buena Vista Gaming Authority to manage, operate and maintain the property on behalf of the Gaming Authority and the Buena Vista Tribe.

“We’re excited to partner with Caesars Entertainment to bring the Harrah’s brand to our gaming project,” said Rhonda L. Morningstar Pope-Flores, chairwoman of the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians.

JCJ Architecture opens Oklahoma office


Gaming tribes are not the only entities going through a spate of expansion; companies that service this segment of the gaming industry are also growing to meet increased demand. One such firm is JCJ Architecture, which has expanded its national practice with the opening of an office in Tulsa, Okla. The new location bolster’s JCJ’s national footprint with existing offices in Atlanta, Ga., Boston, Mass., Hartford, Conn., New York City, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Ariz.,  and San Diego, Calif.

JCJ Architecture’s presence in Tulsa will allow the firm to provide existing and future clients with increased access to project teams and serve as a convenient location to collaborate with the state’s top public and private entities. Currently, the firm is working in Durant, Okla. with the Choctaw Nation of Indians on completion of a tribal wellness center and design for a new cultural center, as well as three other Nations on hospitality and gaming projects throughout the state.

“JCJ Architecture has lead significant design projects throughout Oklahoma since 2006, working with inspiring clients and talented partners across the region,” said Scott P. Celella, chief project officer at JCJ. “With the opening of our new Tulsa office, we have the expanded resources and talent to continue to advance our clients’ project needs and help fuel JCJ’s reputation of delivering excellence in service, design and management.”

As part of its expansion, the firm also announced three new, strategic hires that blend wide-ranging expertise with local and regional understanding, including: Amy Harrell, project director and studio leader; Randall Hull, senior architect and project director; and Corey Graham, interior architecture.