ARLINGTON — With a huge expansion at Angel of the Winds Casino nearing completion, change is in the winds that reaches from the enlarged gaming floor to the first revolutionary HyperBowling alley on the West Coast just steps away.
The Stillaguamish Tribe’s $60 million, 300,000-square-foot expansion will add more slots and table games, an upscale restaurant and larger buffet, trendy bowling alley, concert venue and other features that will raise the profile of the casino, while giving local customers more of what they asked for.
“It’s going to be a game changer for our property,” Jeff Wheatley, assistant general manager, said on a hardhat-tour Monday.
He said the gaming market is highly competitive.
“You have to keep changing, keep growing and keep evolving to keep up,” Wheatley said.
“We’re adding different amenities that will turn us into a resort destination, with a lot of different food and beverage offerings, and bowling. It’s going to be a huge hit.”
The casino Thursday celebrated the opening of the new gaming floor and new three-story, 575-space parking structure with a Parking Lot Hootenanny hosted by 98.9 The Bull. The event featured tailgate food and live music on the top floor, along with a look ahead at coming attractions.
The gaming and parking garage are just the first of several new improvements that will open between now and the end of October, when a grand opening will be announced that coincides with the 15th anniversary of “The World’s Friendliest Casino.”
Angel of the Winds was first with a tribal-owned brewery in the state; now they will be the first with a bowling alley.
In mid- to late-August, the casino plans to open Strikerz, the first new bowling alley to open in Snohomish County in 30 years. It’s a 16-lane alley that takes the sport to new levels of play that is especially popular with Millennials and younger generations. Imagine moonlight bowling at a rave.
“We’re really excited about it because it allows you to play a standard bowling game if you want to, but there’s also ‘hyperbowling,’” Wheatley said.
Hyperbowling, created by Qubica AMF, uses dazzling random lights on gutters and colorful targets on bumpers to hit – or avoid – to multiply scores for the number of pins knocked down.
“We’re really interested to see how that goes over with our guests,” Wheatley said.
Hyperbowling has been popular at local casinos in Las Vegas, and Angel of the Winds patrons wanted to see it here too as an added activity to gaming. Tribal leaders will get first chance to bowl. The casino had to train workers how to operate a bowling alley.
A large white conveyer system can extend a collapsible wall outward to create a semi-private barrier for lanes reserved for birthday parties, team-building, conventions and other functions.
A video screen running the full length of the lanes facing bowlers will be able to show various media and multiple images from concerts across the wide room in the Rivers Run Event Center.
Rivers Run is a 725-seat, 9,000-square-foot multi-purpose entertainment venue with meeting space twice the size of the current convention space. It can also provide seating for 425 people for dinner receptions.
The inaugural concert will feature award-winning Country music recording artist John Michael Montgomery Aug, 30, who had a string of hits in the ’90s.
Beyond bowling and concerts, the casino has also added new group virtual golf and whole sports studios.
“We’re calling it ‘All Things Sports,’” Wheatley said. Virtual golf can be play in two curtained golf bays featuring five courses from across the country, using the same technology that Tiger Woods uses at home.
Casino marketing manager Devin Winsby said that guests can also play virtual lacrosse, hockey and zombie dodgeball.
Wheatley emphasized that the focus is on providing different entertainment spaces so that a visit isn’t all about gaming.
“You can come here, have some food, game a little, bowl or tee off at Augusta National,” he said.
Added Winsby, “It’s definitely good in the winter time, too.”
On the gaming side, the casino is adding 275 more slots and 15 table games to bring the total to 1,425 and 24.
Wheatley said they were more thoughtful and spacious in their design for the gaming floor. They likely have space for up to 1,700 games, but wanted players’ experiences to feel a lot more comfortable, with gaming carousels – or “rounds” – more spread out.
“We could have jammed more games in, but customers tend to feel more comfortable with the rounds because there is more elbow room,” Wheatley said.
Contractors are putting the finishing touches on the new gaming floor that will bring continuity to the existing space, while relocating the cashier’s cage to a larger centralized spot, Wheatley said.
The main pit for table games will be located close to Strikerz and the concert venue, with tribal architectural designs overhead and televisions nearby for players to watch during card games.
Also located within the new gaming area is the Gravity Bar, with an artistic centerpiece that will hold bottles of every imaginable type of alcohol served there.
Over the next two months, workers will replace all the carpeting with a new, fanciful swath that ties into the Native American casino’s themes.
The expansion is also serving up more varied dining options.
An upscale new restaurant, Whiskey Prime Steakhouse, will seat 50 guests, with expansion to a dedicated new buffet, Riverside Buffet, able to serve 200 people. The Watershed Buffet will close down when Riverside opens.
The On the Rocks Lounge closed last month to make room for Jade Fusion. The new restaurant opening at the end of September will feature a range of cuisine from across Southeast Asia.
Locals will be happy to know that Katie’s Kitchen isn’t going anywhere.
“We can’t take that away,” Wheatley said. “Everybody loves Katie’s.”
Las Vegas-based Cuningham Group Architecture provided project design. Swinerton Builders in Bellevue is general contractor, whose other projects include expansions for Emerald Queen Casino in Fife, Yakima Legends Casino and Ilani Casino Resort in Ridgefield north of Vancouver.
The expansion that broke ground in January 2018 generated 400 construction jobs, and the casino has been adding about 150 new jobs to create an employee base of 750, casino officials said.
This is the first expansion of the casino since the tribe opened its $27 million, five-story, 125-room attached hotel in December 2014.
Overall, Wheatly pointed out that the casino hasn’t changed decor since the last expansion.
“It was definitely time to go back and refresh things, and give the players something new to look at,” he said.
The Stillaguamish Tribe opened Angel of the Winds casino in October 2004.
The casino at 3438 Stoluckquamish Lane is located three minutes east of I-5 Exit 210 north of Arlington.
This story originally appeared in The Arlington Times, a sibling paper to the Herald.