By: Natalie Bruckner-Menchelli
Gateway Casinos & Entertainment’s long-held vision to provide the City of Kamloops with an outstanding gaming facility has come to life with the new Cascades Casino.
Relocating to its new site on Versatile Drive, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment was able to fulfill its dream of creating a facility that would act as a gathering and destination place for the people of Kamloops. “The downtown site has for years provided an enjoyable entertainment experience for people across Kamloops, but the time had come for an upgrade,” says Tanya Gabara, director of public relations at Gateway Casinos & Entertainment. “The original site had limited parking. We were also constrained by the size, age and construction of the existing facility, which limited the design and architectural options.”
Instead, the striking new facility, which is just shy of 65,000 square feet, provides easy access to adequate free parking and offers upgrade potential to round out Gateway’s amenities in the coming years.
Due to the location of the new facility, civil and landscape consultants, Urban Systems, had to work closely with its roads and landscape team to provide information to Gateway to meet the
City’s rezoning requirements. “This included detailed design of the road improvements, the parking lot design, contract administration and construction services,” explains Mark Hall, principal at Urban Systems.
As this project was a complete renovation and retrofit to an existing bigbox store, there were many challenges to incorporate the architectural and mechanical needs of a gaming facility into the existing structure. To help minimize the effects on the existing structure and to create a cost effective structural upgrade strategy, Wicke Herfst Maver (WHM) Structural Engineers, provided guidance early on.
Trying to integrate the existing building and materials with the new construction also posed a challenge. “We had to remove and replace almost 15,000 square feet of concrete in order to put the right plumbing in place for two kitchens with large grease interceptors, five bars and 10 different washrooms,” explains Greg Thomson, construction manager at Plainsman Companies, the construction manager on the project.
When it came to the design of the new building, the team was keen to step away from the classic casino style and create something a little more aesthetically pleasing. “The architect had a surmountable challenge to convert a simple existing big box store into an architecturally expressive gaming facility,” explains Brian Maver, principal at WHM. “This of course challenged the existing structure and WHM was required to review every detail to understand the effects.”
Construction of the interior structural steel began in March. “This had to be broken out of the drawings and sent off for production early as we knew it was a long lead time item, and this had to be complete before much of the interior construction could proceed,” explains Thomson.
The mechanical design was specifically tailored to the project, and all equipment was located on the rooftop so parking and event space would not be negatively impacted. Equipment was pre-ordered well before completion of the construction drawings, says Jamie Dabner from Integral Group. Four large custom air handling units were designed for the gaming floor that were close to 10,000 kilograms (11 tons) and 3,000 millimetres (10 feet) tall – large enough to attract a significant amount of snow build-up. “Because of the architectural and mechanical elements, we had to upgrade the structure to accommodate the increase in gravity, wind and seismic effects,” explains Maver.
To work well with its surroundings, Mallen Gowing Berzins Architecture Inc. (MGBA) and Gateway found inspiration from nature. As a result, steel and aluminum back-lit screen are complemented by a haphazard tilted pattern, featuring wood highlights for vertical structural elements. “The intention of the exterior expression is to be mimetic of a forest, an homage to Kamloops’ local natural features and elements,” says PJ Mallen, principal at MGBA. “The result is a very modern and contemporary aesthetic, but with some natural highlights that help bring warmth and human scale to the building for its users and guests – an artistic and adaptive nod to nature, as opposed to an imitative one.”
Upon entering the facility guests are welcomed by a guest services counter and a colour-changing illuminated grand hall that leads through to the heart of the facility, and provides glimpses of the gaming floor and the restaurants offerings on either side. mackaywong Strategic Design carefully selected warm tones and natural design elements that would bring elements of the outside in.
A fire wall acts as a landmark to the entrance of Gateway’s fine dining restaurant, ATLAS Steak + Fish. Surrounding the entry fire there are hints of the interior expression exposed through the orange sunset tinted windows and the tropical green wavepatterned ocean wall. “Upon entry, the vista straight through to the exterior is rewarded with another large fireplace feature, but the discovery of the elements that frame this view are illuminated by the excitement in between,” says Mallen. “The crystal ceiling soars to 19 feet with 1,156 individually hanging glass pendants sparkling like the stars above, framed by dramatic curtains and the wavy ocean wall and mirror backdrop. The lush carpeted floor grounds the space as its references are drawn from the views of earth from space and how the land and sea mingle.”
In fact, no matter where you look, Gateway’s dedication to making this a world-class facility is prominent. “What really stood out to me was the owner’s willingness to find original cutting edge items, such as the interactive video feature wall, the Seeyond lights and the vapour fire place in the ATLAS restaurant. Gateway really wanted this to be a first class facility, and they provided the willingness and the funding to achieve that,” says Thomson.
Inside there is a gaming floor with 500 slots and 18 table games, as well as three food and beverage outlets that each feature an outdoor seating area.
Gateway’s focus on sustainability also shines through on this project. “Heating and cooling on the gaming floor has been provided through custom heat recovery ventilators. These units were specifically designed for the project to ensure the incoming outdoor air to the gaming floor is preheated by the stale air leaving the building which saves both natural gas for heating as well as electricity for cooling,” explains Jamie Dabner from Integral Group. “The building also features a demand control carbon dioxide ventilation system service which allows the air handling units to turn down by up to 70 per cent when the occupancy in the space is low.” The kitchen ventilation system features an integrated control strategy which turns back when not in peak cooking mode to further reduce energy use when the building is not occupied fully. “This allows the building to maintain comfort with exceptional performance that exceeds standard regulations,” says Gabara.
Domestic hot water for the entire building is supplied by four Energy Star-rated condensing water heaters that have intelligent control system to improve energy efficiency while maintaining a reliable supply of hot water as required by health codes.
To reduce energy usage, the heaters for the outdoor patios are on digital controls, which trigger only when the patio is in use, during business hours and when the outdoor air temperature reaches 14-degrees Celcius or lower.
One of the major challenges faced by the team was the relatively brief design and construction period. Construction began in March and the facility was open to the public in early August. “It’s a remarkable feat. Approximately 30 per cent of the time usually allocated to a project of this size and scope – there was a desire to relocate the casino within the summer of 2015,” says Gabara.
Due to the aggressive schedule, the contractor, architect and WHM consulted frequently to ensure the structural information was provided in a manner that suited the contractor’s schedule. “To accommodate this, the structural design was prepared and issued in multiple phases, similar to just-in-time delivery,” says Maver. “In addition, the design was continuously modified and tailored to ensure member sizes were readily available from the Okanagan region.”
“With the pace of construction onsite, there was really no time to proceed with conventional construction procedures,” adds Thomson. “Everyone involved with the project was fantastic in adapting to changing site conditions, and improvising on the fly. With construction proceeding seven days a week and most hours of the night, everyone had to be on call for emergencies and questions. Ron Wong and Brittany Paglia [interior designers] were especially good at coming up with solutions and alternate products due to changing site conditions.”
Through a team effort on the part of Gateway, British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), the consulting team and the general contracting team, Plainsman Construction Ltd., were able to meet the compressed schedule.
LOCATION: 1555 Versatile Drive, Kamloops, B.C.
OWNER/DEVELOPER: Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Ltd.
ARCHITECT: Mallen Gowing Berzins Architecture Inc. (MGBA)
CONSTRUCTION MANAGER: Plainsman Builders Inc.
STRUCTURAL CONSULTANT: Wicke Herfst Maver (WHM) Structural Engineers
MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL CONSULTANT: Integral Group
CIVIL/LANDSCAPE CONSULTANT: Urban Systems
INTERIOR DESIGN: mackaywong
TOTAL SIZE: 65,000 square feet (including outdoor space)
TOTAL COST: $40 million