An economic driver of the entire Menomonee Valley in Milwaukee will be strengthened with the completion of the 20-story Potawatomi Bingo Casino hotel. “We’re in an industrial valley for the most part, so it will be the only 20-story structure for quite a ways,” points out David Brien, facilities director for the Potawatomi Bingo Casino. “So that will make it stand out. We wanted to make it an identifiable profile on the Milwaukee skyline.”
The $150 million, 381-room hotel is being built next to the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, which has been owned and operated by the Forest County Potawatomi Community for more than two decades. The casino includes 3,100 slot machines, nearly 100 table games, a 1,300-seat bingo hall, four full-service restaurants and a 500-seat theater.
“We average about 6 million guests a year,” estimates Laurette Pettibone, Potawatomi Bingo Casino’s assistant general manager of marketing and hospitality. “The hotel will attract new guests, not only to the casino, but to Milwaukee, and will aid in showcasing the great things this community has to offer.”
Deciding which amenities to include at the hotel required solid knowledge of the hotel’s customer base. “The criteria was more serving our guests and clients, so that falls into the number of rooms and suite mix and a full-service spa on the fourth level of the hotel,” Brien notes. “It will have some VIP amenities – a health club and a full-service restaurant within the hotel – and it will have some very high-end suite opportunities, as well. A pool is one we chose not to include. It is an amenity not used frequently by gaming customers.”
The former industrial site of the casino was owned by a metal fabricator. “We’re in an old swamp between a river and a canal, so structurally and foundation-wise, that provides some challenges,” Brien says. Each of 600 piles driven 150 feet deep will be assembled from three massive 60-foot-long steel pipes to secure the cast-in-place, 381,000-square-foot concrete structure.
Construction of the hotel on a relatively small site has to be accomplished while the adjacent casino keeps operating. “We had to move their existing valet area before we could take over the entire site,” reports Kyle Merrill, project manager for Gilbane Building Co., the general contractor of the hotel. “We built a new valet area for them at the existing parking garage. It turned out to be a really nice valet area. Getting people used to the traffic flow and getting people used to something different is always a challenge.”
The small size of the site has kept traffic flow tight. “We’re also right on the corner of two pretty busy intersections as far as casino access goes,” Merrill points out. “So keeping the site safe and secure with trucks entering and leaving is a challenge.”
Started in August 2012, the fast-track project is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2014 with a projected opening in early October 2014. “The project has been bid in multiple phases,” Merrill explains. “We bid the deep foundation and site-clearing work prior to seeing a final set of drawings. We bid the core and shell without all the interior finish. We’re now getting ready to do the next package, which consists of the interior finishes, and the hardscape. This bid package comes out late this winter.”
A benefit of building the Potawatomi Bingo Casino hotel is employment of local construction companies and of Milwaukee area residents when the hotel is completed. A goal of 20 percent of the subcontractors working on the project are to be minority-owned businesses, and 25 percent of the workers on the construction site should have a city of Milwaukee zip code for their residence.
Merrill estimates approximately 90 prime contractors will be employed for the project, and with subcontractors to the prime contractors, he expects that figure to exceed 100. “We are doing it intentionally that way to try to break out these packages and get as many in the community involved as we can,” Merrill pledges.
A detention basin will be built under the parking garage to hold stormwater from the garage and hotel. The water will be sent into the stormwate
The building is aiming for a level of LEED certification that will be determined as the plans for the hotel’s interior are completed. The exterior spandrel glass covers almost all of the exterior of the building.
The hotel will include energy-efficient lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures. A chiller will recover waste heat from high-efficiency, high-turndown oil burners that will be added to the existing general mechanical plant.
A true 3-D modeling system is being used in the plans of the structure. “So it’s going to be a complete 3-D model, not just having 3-D imagery,” Merrill explains. “Contractors are required to deliver their as-builts in 3-D and coordinate them in 3-D to give a complete, workable model instead of a pretty picture at the end of the job.”
At the end of construction, operation and maintenance manuals will be prepared in a unique way. “Equipment data is being incorporated into Potawatomi’s management software versus handing over closeout documents and saying, ‘You guys manage this,’” Merrill says. “That’s kind of unique. The Potawatomi staff’s level of sophistication allows us to help provide a better solution than the norm.”
Photos of all wall interiors will be taken before the walls are closed up so the photos can be consulted in the future if changes need to be made. “Our focus is not just on the building,” Merrill says. “We want to understand their business and ensure that their team can seamlessly operate their new hotel after the architect and construction team is gone.”
Pettibone points out the advantages of the hotel to the casino. “Milwaukee is a great regional destination,” she says. “This hotel will take our reputation as a casino, one with comprehensive entertainment offerings, to the next level. It will expose new guests to Milwaukee. Our studies show that we’ll be able to extend our market and welcome new visitors to the casino.”