- By Kate Carlson, MiBiz
WAYLAND, Mich. — Gun Lake Casino broke ground last week on a $300 million expansion that includes a 15-story hotel and multi-purpose “aquadome” enclosed pool space that will double as a nightlife venue.
Officials from the casino and the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, or Gun Lake Tribe, held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, May 19 at Gun Lake Casino in Wayland, revealing more details about the expansive project first announced in April 2021.
“This expansion will begin the transformation of the Gun Lake Casino to become a Gun Lake Casino resort,” said Gun Lake Casino CEO Sal Semola. “With our expanding variety of entertainment options, which are designed to broaden our geographic reach, this will result in significant economic benefit throughout the region. The highlight will be a truly unique and versatile entertainment venue we refer to as the aquadome. This venue will surely become a must-see attraction for all to experience.”
The project will be the largest expansion yet for the casino, adding on to the facility’s west side. The resort part of the project will include multiple pools inside a six-story aquadome enclosed area with 32,000 square feet that can transition into a concert venue. The facility will include three pools, a swim-up bar, live palm trees and an entertainment stage with the capacity to host events of up to 2,400 people.
The 15-story hotel piece of the addition will include 252 rooms, including 30 suites. The top two floors of the hotel will feature a two-story suite with a unique living space showcasing a grand staircase, double-height window and residential elevator. A full-service bar, billiards table and large bar upstairs with indoor and outdoor seating areas is also part of the suite.
Sandhill Cafe, a three-meal restaurant designed to seat 137 people in a flexible layout, also is part of the project.
“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,” Gun Lake Tribe Chairman Bob Peters said in a statement. “We are committed to continuously investing in the future of the tribe, the community and our current and future team members.”
Lansing, Mich.-based Clark Construction Co. is the general contractor for the project, which expects to be completed by March 2025. Memphis, Tenn.-based HBG Design serves as the project architect.
The project will be a “significant contributor” to the economic development of the Grand Rapids and Southwest Michigan regions, said Clark Construction Senior Vice President Allen Blower. An average of about 200 people will work on the project daily, with more than 15,000 direct and indirect jobs created before completion, he said.
Officials from the tribe and casino estimate the project will have a $650 million economic impact.
“This expansion will not be the last,” Semola said. “I can’t share with you what’s in store for the future, the only thing I can tell you is the best is yet to come.”
The casino has undergone multiple expansions since it opened in 2011. A recently completed $100 million, 72,000-square-foot expansion added 450 slot machines, 12 new table games and a larger non-smoking area inside the casino. The addition also added more capacity to the casino’s entertainment venue and additional upscale restaurants.
Taking on a construction project this large during construction supply chain and labor shortages is “an incredible challenge,” Semola said.
“None of us have experienced anything like what we’re seeing today, whether it’s material costs rising or some of the material being on a delayed timeline. We have to take a look at our timeline in terms of when we bring in and order material and equipment differently to make sure we have enough time,” Semola said. “It continues to be volatile and we continue to monitor it. We look at pricing and what’s going on around the world in the economy every day.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: A version of this story originally appeared in MiBiz, a regional business publication based in Grand Rapids, Mich. It is republished with permission.