Allegan County News & Union Enterprise

Casino breaks ground on new hotel, Aquadome

May 19, 2022, officials from the Gun Lake Casino and Resort, owned by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi, brought together representatives from the tribe, project architect HBG Design, and Clark Construction Co. to officially announce the groundbreaking of their $300 million expansion along the west side of the existing casino and restaurants.
“Phase 5 will transform the property into a first-class destination resort. Without question, its design attributes will create a unique entertainment experience,” stated Gun Lake Casino CEO, Sal Semola.
HBG Design guided the creation of what is expected to be a “memorable and transformative guest experience”. The 32,000 square foot Aquadome, described by some as a huge greenhouse with numerous amenities, features three pools, a swim-up bar, live palm trees and tropical plants plus a stage for live entertainment that will stay at a year-round 82 degrees.
“HBG Design is excited to be leading the architecture and interior design for the $300-million expansion of Gun Lake Casino featuring a 252 room, 4-diamond hotel, spa, and multi-purpose Aquadome,” said Paul Bell, AIA, Principal of HBG Design. “The Aquadome is sure to become a must-see feature. A resort pool by day and performance complex by night, the glass-enclosed circular structure will generate an immense sense of energy inside and out, while offering a variety of complementary entertainment and gathering opportunities for resort guests and entertainment-seekers from the tri-state area.”
Those entering the 15-story hotel will marvel at the spacious Lobby with access to the Lobby Bar that overlooks the Aquadome. The 252 rooms includes 30 suites that offer comfort to visitors, while a two-story suite on the top two floors showcases a grand staircase, double-height windows and residential elevator, then adds a full-service bar, billiard table, and indoor and outdoor seating.
Clark Construction Co., the general contractor for the project, expects that the project will create a wealth of jobs before the completion date in March of 2025.
Clark Construction Senior Vice President Allen Blower shared that “the project will be a ‘significant contributor’ to the economic development of the Grand Rapids and Southwest Michigan regions. An average of about 200 people will work on the project daily, with more than 15,000 direct and indirect jobs created before completion.”
Once complete, the Casino and Resort will expand its economic impact with the creation of about 350 jobs.
“Job creation is one of the many things we’re excited about with this expansion,” Semola added. “We take great pride in providing career opportunities with outstanding benefits for people in our community. These jobs will include guest relations, housekeeping, entertainment, and several other departments.”
Since its opening in 2011 with an 83,000 sq. ft. gaming floor and 1400 slot machines, Gun Lake Casino has systematically expanded. In 2016-17, the $75 million project increased the casino to 156,000 sq. ft. with a total of 2,050 gaming machines and 42 table games, in addition to doubling the size of Stage 131 and adding a buffet restaurant with 300-seat capacity.
On September 17, 2021, Phase 4’s $100 million project opened. This expanded the gaming floor by 72,000 sq. ft., increased slot machines to 2700 , and added 12 more table games. More seating was added to Stage 131 with an outdoor patio and new dining service. In addition, two new restaurants were built. Unique to Gun Lake is a beer wall with 100 craft beers on tap.
Since 2011, Gun Lake Casino has not only taken care of itself but has reached out to assist numerous projects offered by organizations and nonprofits across West Michigan. The giving back has totaled about $166 million through compact revenue sharing and $2.6 million through charitable donations. In 2021 alone, over $70,000 was raised through donation boxes on the casino floor and over $280,000 donated to community organizations.
“The biggest thing for us is, Does this make an impact for the community? Who is this helping and how can we help them? Without the community, we are just a building, and the community means so much to all of us,” Assistant General Manager Carter Pavey stated in a FOX 17 interview.
Pavey later stressed, “The property is as successful as our guests. The guests have dictated our growth pattern. They tell us what they would like, and we respond. This has added more gaming, different food options, entertainment, and now a hotel. Our guests and team members make us successful. Team members are passionate about the property and the guests. It is the people who make us so successful.”
During the 2022 Groundbreaking, statements were made that Phase 5 is a huge undertaking, but there will be more to come.
“We are thrilled to begin taking the next steps in expanding not only Gun Lake Casino’s offerings but also our career opportunities to those in the surrounding communities,” said Tribal Chairman Bob Peters. “We are committed to continuously investing in the future of the Tribe, the community, and our current and future Team Members.”

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