The Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor is 18 percent complete and is on target to open at the end of the first quarter of 2017.
Gazette photographer Marc Schultz and I got a sneak peek inside the casino on Wednesday, where 75 percent of the concrete has been poured and 2 percent of the framing is up.
The walls of the casino will start going up next month. On Wednesday there were 135 workers on site, who work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. That number is expected to double in the next couple of months.
Joe Scibetta, vice president of operations for Rush Street Gaming, showed us the layout of the casino and what future patrons can expect in terms of amenities, design and lighting.
Unlike other casinos, the Rivers Casino will focus on natural light, Scibetta said.
“We don’t shy away from natural light,” he said. “Wherever we can add it, we add it.”
There will be windows along the wall of the casino facing the Mohawk River. There are no windows in the main 50,000-square-foot gaming area, which will include 1,150 slot machines and 63 table games.
There will be a patio for the VIP gaming room and a patio for the steakhouse overlooking the river by the walking path. The banquet facility will also have windows by the river.
On the other side of the building, facing Erie Boulevard, the 16-table poker room will have windows and the marketplace next door, which will include four restaurants, will have a shared patio.
“The poker room has windows, which is really rare,” Scibetta said. “We introduced windows in our poker room at SugarHouse in Philadelphia and the players like it. They like the ability to have natural light with shades to be relatively dark.”
The Mallozzi Group will operate the food venues and banquet facility. The marketplace will include smaller versions of Johnny’s Italian restaurant and Villa Italia bakery along with a burger place and Asian restaurant.
The entertainment lounge, next to the poker room, will feature an 85-inch TV and a wall with six 55-inch TVs. There will be windows along the top of the lounge, Scibetta said.
“It will be the first time we’ll be using an 85-inch TV, so we’re pretty excited,” he said. “We can also have six different games on at once or one big game.”
The casino will not be a “maze of slot machines,” he said. There will be 10-foot paths going through the center, across and around the gaming floor. There will also be directional signage throughout.
Scibetta said the goal is to make customers feel comfortable so they would return.
“Our focus is always on how the customer feels in the casino,” he said. “We believe that instead of having them get lost in a land of slot machines that we give them clear pathways and directional signage that some casinos would say is overkill.”
The casino will not have neon colors, he said. Instead it will feature soft tones of brown, orange and yellow.
Klai Juba Wald, an architect in Las Vegas, designed the casino with a lot of 90-degree angles, which Scibetta said enhances customer experience.
Cleo Design, also of Las Vegas, is designing the casino, hotel and banquet facility. Scibetta said Cleo has a modern but contemporary approach.
“We like wood and soft tones so the customers are very comfortable,” he said. “Between the food outlets and the entertainment lounge, to the gaming floor, event center and hotel, we want it to feel like a multi-purpose building. The designers helped us accomplish that.”
Renderings of the interior of the casino previously provided by Rush show wood walls with red and yellow chairs and a carpet with swirls of red and yellow mixed with brown.
The banquet facility’s carpet is more muted with brown tones. Richmond Burton, an artist in Woodstock, made the carpet for the banquet space, Scibetta said.
“The carpets are a fresh design and no one else will have them,” he said.
The ceilings vary in height throughout the casino from 13 to 18 feet, he said. Some security cameras would be concealed in the ceiling while others would be visible.
The 150,000-square-foot casino is one floor with a second-floor mezzanine, which will be a thoroughfare for employees when they enter from the parking lot along with some office space, Scibetta said.
The casino’s garage will be three stories tall with direct access from the garage to the casino. Original plans called for five stories and Rush is permitted to build up to five stories.
The casino will be age 21 and over with security planned at its two entrances to check IDs. The casino is non-smoking but smoking would be permitted on the patios, Scibetta said.
There would be a separate entrance for the banquet facility for people who are less than 21.
The adjacent 163-room hotel would be connected to the casino by a corridor. The foundations for the hotel started last week. It remains without a flag at this time.
The hotel is not expected to open until July or later, Scibetta said. The casino is expected to open around March.
“We don’t have a hotel brand but are progressing with the hotels,” he said. “We’re up in the air and working very hard to get a flag on the hotel. We’re at a stage where we need to build it so we’re going forward.”
The $330 million casino on the Mohawk Harbor site will be operated by Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, which also runs the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia and Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois.
The Galesi Group of Rotterdam is developing the 60-acre site with a 124-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel and 206-unit apartment building, which are both currently under construction.
Galesi also plans an office and retail building, 15-unit townhouse building and possible 50-unit condominium building. The site features a 50-boat-slip harbor along with biking and walking paths.