Wind Creek Montgomery Hotel & B.B. King’s Blues Club – Dale Partners Architects
The energy of a Memphis blues club has arrived just outside of Montgomery, Alabama. The five-story Wind Creek Montgomery Hotel and B.B. King’s Blues Club are the latest in gaming and nightlife in the area, taking patrons on a tour of historic Beale Street and all that the birthplace of the blues has to offer.
The $42 million hotel, club and casino consists of 123 rooms with eight double wide and pool-side suites, an event center and retail shops, restaurants and fine dining, capped off with a luxurious rooftop pool deck. The Blues Club includes four bars and a second floor mezzanine with views of the stage and dance floor. The 125-seat B.B. King’s Restaurant includes an outdoor terrace overlooking the hotel pool deck. Itta Bena, named for the birthplace of B.B. King, is the fine dining arm of the restaurant, which is tucked away in 1920s speakeasy fashion.
Dale Partners Architects P.A. has teamed up with the owner, The Poarch Band of Creek Indians and a joint-venture general contracting team, Alabama Native Contractors (Rolin Construction Company and Rabren General Contractors) to deliver the full architectural scope and bring the client’s vision to life.
Poarch Creek Indian Gaming manages two other gaming facilities in Alabama, including the Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Atmore and Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Wetumpka. Wind Creek Montgomery is the latest renovation and large-scale expansion effort for Poarch Creek Indian Gaming.
“We have provided full architectural and interior design services for the renovation of what was previously called Creek Casino Montgomery,” says Jason Agostinelli, project architect for Dale Partners. “The other two properties are already four-diamond resorts so we added the hotel/club aspect to the Montgomery property with the intention of bringing it up to four-diamond status as well.”
Setting the stage
Adding the Blues Club became a natural part of the 190,000-square-foot expansion, especially considering the relationship Dale Partners already had in place with the brand’s owner. “We have worked with Tommy Peters, the owner of the Beale Street Blues Company,” says Agostinelli. “We brought his team to the table with Poarch Creek and they started to discuss and get excited about the idea of the club.”
With offices in Jackson and Biloxi, Mississippi, Dale Partners has built many key industry relationships by practicing for more than 34 years. “We have a wide range of experience in the public and private sector in civic, corporate, educational, historic, hotel, hospitality, gaming and interiors, as well as master planning, medical, religious and theatrical facilities,” says Agostinelli.
Dale Partners is well versed in offering its clients many of the services needed to get a project off the ground such as site planning, rezoning, programing, concept formulation and design, all the way through completion.
In the case of Wind Creek Montgomery, the site presented specific early-stage challenges for the Dale Partners team. “Being on tribal lands there was a high level of environmental sensitivity,” explains Agostinelli. “We had to be wary of potential artifacts; if something was damaged or disturbed it could halt construction.”
To avoid disturbing the land, Dale Partners opted for the low-rise lightweight construction of a 22-inch post tension mat-slab foundation over drilling deep foundation piers. “This was a fairly unique situation because we’re normally not required to use mat-slab foundations,” says Agostinelli.
Walkin’ in Memphis
Once the envelope was completed, the interior design continued to challenge Dale Partners’ creativity. “The Wind Creek casinos are known for incorporating elemental concepts — wind, earth, water — so we had to successfully marry the Beale Street aesthetic of brick buildings and streetscapes while staying true to the Wind Creek brand,” says Agostinelli.
From bright neon signs to street lights, trees and sidewalks, Dale Partners wanted to make guests feel as if they were walking in Memphis. “We made each little area feel like a separate building on the gaming floor,” says Agostinelli. “The high-limits area has an art deco theme, but was originally inspired by the historic Orpheum Theater in Memphis.”
The complexities of the interior required a lot of help from specialized consultants. “We worked closely with a lighting designer and a signage consultant to bring the outdoor feel of a Memphis streetscape inside. We also wanted a starry night feel for the ceiling to complete the outdoor aesthetic so we used the lighting consultant to pull this off. We incorporated a lot of LEDs for jackpot lighting. Whenever someone hits the jackpot a song plays and there’s a lightshow. There is a lot of really impressive lighting in this project.”
Agostinelli says this project was a little outside of Dale Partners usual design scope. “We usually don’t operate in this kind of Disney World realm where things are kind of imaginary/fake,” he says. “Trying to do an exterior building in an interior element was a challenge. We partnered with a reclaimed brick contractor out of Philadelphia whose company basically teams with demolition partners to find old, unique brick components. There’s a lot of 200-plus year-old brick throughout the casino.”
The addition also included a new lobby, offices and back of the house area for the entire complex. “One major hurdle was all of the existing services — both restaurant and casino — remained fully operational during the entire year of the expansion,” says Agostinelli. “To facilitate this we demolished all of the administrative space and moved the staff into temporary trailers in the parking lot and we also renovated a restaurant first so they still had a means of selling food. By opening, there were two new restaurants to add to the space.”
Despite having to work around fully functional parts of the building, Dale Partners and the general contracting team were able to open Wind Creek Montgomery a month early. “We were fortunate to have a great project team and I think it’s been a great experience for us and the owner,” says Agostinelli.
Now open to the public, the Wind Creek Montgomery Hotel & B.B. King’s Blues Club allow guests not only to enjoy gaming and nightlife, but also a journey in time and place.
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