- By Jenna Kunze
WAYLAND, Mich. — The Gun Lake Casino detailed plans for a new $300 million expansion project that will upgrade the property to include a 250-room luxury hotel, indoor pool that will double as an event venue, a spa and an additional restaurant.
The new project announcement comes as phase four of construction nears completion for at the casino, the gaming venture of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, commonly called the Gun Lake Tribe. The ongoing project is adding 72,000 square feet to the casino’s existing facility, 450 new slot machines and three restaurants.
“Our tribe is very forward thinking,” said Gun Lake Casino General Manager Jose Flores. “We’ve heard a lot of feedback from our guests about the desire for a hotel. With the completion of phase four, it made complete sense to start this process. The completion of phase four will roll right into the design process for phase five.”
The changeover between projects is expected to take place this summer, Flores added. The tribe expects to release renderings for the new hotel and pool venue next month.
Gun Lake Casino is located halfway between the major cities of Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo in Western Michigan. The closest hotel to the casino property is a recently-opened chain location that’s about a five-minute drive from the property, Flores said.
The newly announced hotel and venue addition, slated for completion in late 2023 or early 2024, will allow the business to tap into a larger market of visitors from further away, such as Chicago or northwestern Indiana.
“Staycation has certainly become a popular term in the past few years,” Flores told Tribal Business News. “It allows you as a guest to stretch out your weekend, as opposed to traveling from further away. And it'll allow us to take guests that typically may not have come to our property because there's no place to lodge.”
The hotel will qualify as a 4-diamond, rated by AAA as a measure of industry standards on a scale of 3-5-diamond ratings. To qualify for 4-diamond, a hotel must have amenities including room service and an indoor pool and must be “upscale in all areas” and “include an extensive array of amenities combined with a high degree of hospitality, service, and attention to detail.”
Additionally, the glass dome pool addition will double as a relaxation area by day and a concert venue at night featuring live DJs and a dance floor, Flores said.
The expansion aligns with the tribe’s value to build a sustainable future for seven generations ahead, he added.
Gun Lake Casino employs roughly 1,000 workers — and expects to add an additional 500 people in phases four and five — and has contributed $2.8 billion to Michigan’s economy since it opened, according to a study the tribe published in February. The casino has expanded roughly every three years since opening in 2011.
“The casino is the largest economic driver for dollars that go into the operating budgets,” Flores said. “So taking care of that business and growing it in a responsible fashion is one of their initiatives. The decisions we make today support those initiatives into the future.”
Flores said that COVID-19 instilled in the tribe the importance of flexibility in business.
“You have to be ready to pivot as things change,” he said. “Probably the biggest thing that we’ve learned is to remain flexible so that you have the ability to pivot when you need to.”