Two years of planning and construction to expand and upgrade the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez will be celebrated this weekend with a special party, performances by Stevie Wonder and a special car giveaway July 31.
The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians spent $165 million on the improvements that include a 12-story hotel tower, a rooftop swimming pool, an expanded spa with nine treatment rooms, multiple food outlets and an expanded casino floor, said Mike Traphagen, spokesman for the tribe.
In addition to more space with a better flow for gamers to walk around, the casino includes a ventilation system designed to keep the air free of smoke, a total of 2,300 slot machines and a Higher Limits area that’s tripled in size to 7,800 square feet.
The resort now has obtained a provisional liquor license, making beer, wine and mixed drinks available at the new Center Bar but also making the casino open only to those age 21 and older.
In all, the project consisted of remodeling existing floor space and adding new spaces consisting of 550,000 square feet, including 50,000 square feet of new casino floor area and 210,000 square feet of new hotel facilities, Traphagen said as he led a tour of the improvements.
“The poker room was tucked away on the third floor,” he noted as he led the way into the well-lit, spacious new room off the casino floor. “This is a more comfortable environment.”
Large flat-screen TVs mounted high on the walls show news and sports programs, and each seat at the poker tables is equipped with a cellphone charging station.
The High Limit room has a more exclusive atmosphere, with its own restrooms, cashier’s cage, bar and lounge and concierge services to accompany its 125 slot machines and four blackjack tables.
Among the last of the improvements made in the phased development was an upgrade of the Samala Showroom, located adjacent to the casino floor.
“After all this stuff, they decided to put a shine on this, too,” Traphagen said of the showroom, where crews were hard at work behind a veil of curtains almost up to the last minute to prepare for the July 14 concert by Rascal Flatts.
“It’s nice to see huge acts in a smaller venue,” he added, noting Stevie Wonder will perform this weekend in the 1,400-seat showroom, first for tribal members and guests Saturday night, then in a public performance Sunday. “He can sell out the Staples Center.”
Other stars booked to play the Samala include Jeff Beck on Aug. 11 and Olivia Newton-John on Nov. 17, he said.
One of the highlights of the renovation is the expansion of the food court, where guests can find baked goods, ice cream, custom-made sandwiches from the deli, roasted chicken, ribs and brisket and an Asian station referred to as “Rolls and Bowls.”
But food choices don’t end there, Traphagen said, noting there are now nine locations where guests can purchase food, snacks and treats.
The buffet area consists of separate stations that reduce the waiting time for Mexican, Italian and Asian foods, salads and desserts.
Willows, the main dining room, has three private rooms available, the Sweet Shop sells Starbucks products and the café has an industrial, New York loft feel.
When the casino hotel opened in 2004, it had 106 rooms and 19 suites. Now, it has 320 rooms and 55 suites.
The jewel of those is the Chairman’s Suite on the top floor, where glass doors separating the living room area from the outdoor deck can be folded away, opening up the main suite to the fresh air.
The suite offers a sweeping view of the Santa Ynez Valley and mountains beyond, and the covered deck overlooks the rooftop pool deck below.
The room has a TV inside the large mirror in the bathroom, where a large tub and huge shower with multiple heads are controlled from a waterproof electronic keypad.
Two adjacent guest rooms can be rented as part of the suite.
“They haven’t set a rate for this yet,” Traphagen said, as he led the way down to the pool, where the water is only 3 feet deep — just right for soaking in a lounge chair —new private cabanas offer privacy and guests can rent a hospitality suite that has direct access to the pool deck.
The spacious lobby now contains a bar, although as of a week ago, no decision had been made on what it would serve.
“It could be a juice bar,” Traphagen noted.
Next to the lobby, an atrium is filled with sculptures that depict the way Chumash ancestors lived — telling stories, weaving baskets, preparing food, hunting and dancing.
“The sculptures say there’s a culture behind all this,” Traphagen said.
To accommodate the additional guests the improvements are expected to draw, an additional 500 parking spaces were added, and the valet parking area was expanded into a wide avenue beneath the entry canopy.
That’s also where the cars to be given away by the casino each week are parked on display. In addition to the Mini Cooper that will be given away this Sunday, the display includes the exotic BMW i8 that will be given away Sunday, July 31.
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