A player in the gaming world since 1994 with the introduction of the tribe’s initial Casino of the Sun, that move spawned the arrival of its bigger brother two miles down the road — Casino del Sol, which opened to the public in 2001.
Gaming options were joined by a resort, spa and conference center in 2011, and Casino del Sol became the only casino resort in Arizona to be honored with a Forbes Four Star distinction in addition to its AAA Four Diamond Award.
The 160,000 square feet of casino space rapidly filled with 1,300 gaming machines as well as poker and table games, along with bars, an assortment of dining options, an entertainment venue, and the Sewailo Golf Club, added in 2012.
Advertising “More Fun Under the Sun,” life was good. But change can sometimes make things even better and decision-makers decided it was time to re-brand, coming up with a new look and feel. “We’re doing that,” says Steve Neely, chief marketing officer. “We’re not reinventing, we’re refreshing and evolving.”
The first visible sign is the newly-renovated Zebo’z Bar. “We had outgrown our center bar. One of our best amenities, Zebo’z offered openness, but not enough room for people to truly enjoy the spot to its fullest,” Neeley says. “Tribal Council agreed and approved a $1.2 million rebuild.”
Located in the middle of the Piazza gaming area under a perpetual daytime sky dome, it is now 2,700 square feet of openness with a Mediterranean theme. The bar now holds five times its previous capacity and offers bar-top gaming machines like Keno and video poker. “The addition of 500 more square feet on the elevated platform enhances the ambiance of the property,” adds CEO Kimberly Van Amburg.
More changes are in the offing. “Now that we’re done with Zebo’z, we’re looking at 4,000 square feet of storage space we’d like to relocate our Paradiso Lounge in. The current location has a really small stage for entertainers. Patrons can’t dance because the floor is too small. And if you’re a slot player, sometimes the music is too loud. We’d like to change that dynamic and remake the space into more of a casino lounge, a whole room for Paradiso.” That estimated $2 million effort should be completed by year-end.
But the rebranding is more than just rebuilding. There are invisible benefits that go beyond design and décor. “While we’re looking to implement a more modern and streamlined look, we’ve also taken the time (and cost) to bring in more comfortable and durable furnishings and add new lighting,” says Facilities Director John De Luna.
“It doesn’t sound sexy, but new LED lighting will save us tens of thousands of dollars because bulbs will last for decades. We’re trying to make the property as green as possible with changes in the back of the house like changing our metering system for power supplies. It’s not just bigger, better, and newer, it’s also smarter.”
For instance, air exchangers. “This property is 100% outside air that brings a full air exchange every 45 minutes. To improve on that, we’re doing things with ion machines that absorb odor molecules and get rid of them, taking comfort to the next level.
“Our challenge today is to make things better and there’s a lot of things going on that nobody sees, but everybody benefits from. The tribe recognizes the need to stay out in front of the industry and our competition. Everybody is always trying to keep up with the Joneses — and I like to consider that we are the Joneses.”
Adds Neeley: “What’s especially good about all these changes is the process we went through. Over 85% of all the work being done here is being done in-house by our own employees, a huge percentage of which are tribal members.”