Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino Makes the Cover of Casino Journal!

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Case studies on Native American casino resort designs

Gaming resort architects strive to integrate important tribal symbols and patterns wherever possible when it comes to designing the latest Native American casino resorts, as these case studies from leading firms show.

Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino
Location: Buffalo, N.Y.
Owner and operator: Seneca Nation, New York
Architect: Hnedak Bobo Group (HBG)
Opening Date: 2013 (expansion to open spring 2017)

The Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino adds unmistakable energy and excitement to the Inner Harbor area of downtown Buffalo, N.Y., an area of the city that is now seeing resurgence in development, partially due to the Seneca Nation’s long-time commitment to area growth.

With an architectural and interior design by HBG (Hnedak Bobo Group), the urban casino is uniquely positioned in location, size and amenities to meet the needs of the regional gaming and entertainment market as it advances the Seneca Nation’s culture and community vision.

That vision involves creating a modern economic development that stimulates and creates synergy as part of the restaurant, retail and entertainment renaissance happening in the Buffalo Inner Harbor District.

The Seneca Nation has strong historic and cultural ties to the Inner Harbor area—which falls within their ancestral nine-acre sovereign Buffalo Creek Territory; the property’s owners strongly believe that the success and growth of the Buffalo Creek gaming operation and the success and growth of the surrounding district go hand-in-hand. This vision of community integration directly influenced the casino design—of both the phase I casino, and now the phase II expansion scheduled to open spring 2017.

Marrying community and culturethe property’s carefully-planned design by HBG takes cues from its location just two blocks away from the First Niagara Center, home of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres hockey team, the strong regional water influences of adjacent Lake Erie and Buffalo River/Buffalo Creek, and meaningful cultural elements significant to the Seneca Nation. The subtle, physical interpretation of these elements results in a contemporary and vibrant experience true to the Inner Harbor’s context and planned development trajectory.


Upon the permanent casino’s opening in 2013, the property witnessed tremendous success, leading the Seneca Nation to announce an expansion in 2015, consisting of new restaurant and gaming amenities.

In January 2016, the Seneca Nation and Seneca Gaming Corporation broke ground on the $40 million expansion project, also designed by HBG. As reported by the nation, the economic impact is expected to be large, with approximately 800 people working at Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, helping to entertain the more than three million annual visitors.

Currently under construction, the two-story addition to the existing casino adds approximately 28,500 square feet of space on each of two levels. The ground floor will add more than 300 additional slot machines and additional table games, including a high limit room and expanded non-smoking area, and a performance stage for live entertainment at Stixx Sports Bar. The second floor of the expansion will introduce a new ‘Western Door Steakhouse’ concept restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.

“Design and economics go hand-in-hand,” said Paul Bell, AIA, project manager and principal at HBG. “It was important hat, as designers, we understood the market influences at play in the Inner Harbor district before we began formulating ideas.” For example, according to industry research, HBG knows that today’s consumer, no matter their age, from Millennials to Boomers, expects more for their money—more creativity and intelligence from their entertainment experiences, more relevant amenities, more authenticity, more distinction.

“These aspects influence how guests spend their entertainment dollars,” Bell added. “We need to elevate our design thinking for each project and get very targeted with amenity design and offerings.”

Buffalo’s Inner Harbor market was primed for new, targeted experiences. Three main design elements/venues at the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino fulfilled a market gap. Spurred by community-driven interests and a focus on locality and authentic elements of native and regional design, designers created the Stixx Sports Bar and the Western Door Steakhouse restaurant, and infused the casino with subtle references to Seneca Nation heritage, culture and local context.


To get the heritage angle correction, HBG worked closely with Seneca Nation stakeholdersSeneca Gaming Corporation leadership and casino operations, and Seneca Construction Management Corporation. From early design and cultural exploration workshops through to construction, the Seneca Gaming Corporation leadership is highly involved in keeping the team focused on realizing the ultimate project vision.

Close collaboration between HBG’s design team and the Seneca Nation Cultural Committee was invaluable to ensure authenticity of native artwork and regional inspirations, including custom materials used throughout the design.

“Before design concepts were created, our team met with the Seneca Cultural Committee to learn about the nation’s customs, history and cultural identity,” said Nathan Peak, AIA, design discipline director and principal at HBG. “The nation wanted the property to reflect the local Buffalo area, while also infusing meaningful cultural elements into the design.”

One such cultural element worked into the property’s design was the Seneca Walk. “As a unique place making element, the Seneca Walk was created as a signature pedestrian entryway to the property,” Peak said. Stretching from the corner of Perry St. and Michigan Ave. to the casino’s front door, Seneca Walk is lined with eight custom-lit pylons, each representing one of the eight Seneca tribal clans—Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Beaver, Snipe, Heron, Deer and Hawk.

The Senecas are also known as the “People of Great Hill.” This historical and cultural element inspired designers to plant a White Pine, symbolic of the Tree of Peace, on the 10-foot hill overlooking Seneca Walk.  The glowing Tree of Peace landmark design element is unmistakable on the casino floor, a welcoming and energizing feature that also works to make wayfinding easy and uncomplicated for casino guests. The Tree of Peace becomes a focal point of the design, highlighted by an undulating wood-tone ceiling.

Rising almost 17 feet in height and spanning almost 14 feet at its widest point, HBG’s design of the Tree of Peace is highly abstracted; sculptural pine branches rise up around the tree to emphasize the rhythm and geometry of the individual pine needles. Illuminated to signify its importance, the Tree of Peace is said to have been “used by the Creator to represent peace, strength, the will to not fight against one another and protection when abiding by the great law of peace.”

The Seneca Nation is also widely recognized for their intricate jewelry and beadwork patterns. Metallic canopies found over many of the public spaces feature patterns derived or abstracted from traditional Wampum belt patterns unique to Seneca. The Hiawatha belt, which memorializes the Great Law of Peace, can be found over all entrances of the casino. Distinctive floral, ribbon and 3D splint-and-ash basket weave motifs layer on ceiling, wall and floor coverings, while Seneca artwork features rosette medallions and stainless steel panels. The high-limits gaming area is set apart by mosaic flooring made of Sicis art glass and marble mosaics that provide a wonderful iridescent visual effect–reminiscent of traditional Seneca Nation jewelry.

Drawing inspiration from Lake Erie and Buffalo Creek, designers applied a symbolic water design to the building’s façade with blue metal panels creating a visual wave-like movement spanning the casino entrance and wrapping around the building. The blue panels are continued into the two-story expansion elevation to emphasize the rectangular geometry and a second story balcony for outdoor Western Door Steakhouse restaurant dining. This water concept was carried into the gaming floor by a custom carpet pattern resembling radiating water droplets, and in fluid-patterned blue and multi-colored carpet detailing on the expanded gaming floor.

Internally, the two-story expansion adds a new central stair with a dramatic overhead ceiling and wall feature evocative of a long, flowing waterfall lit in deep shades of watery blue and gray. The new design element will add to the gaming excitement and give the new expansion an interior prominence on par with its elevated exterior stature. A second main bar will be located on the new gaming floor underneath the new stair, accented by water-inspired hues and rain-like ceiling light features that frame the bar seating area.


As with any property built close to water, Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino has a bunch of unique developmental obstacles to overcome. A key challenge early on involved how to most effectively integrate the property on the site for visibility and accessibility from main Inner Harbor district traffic. This involved forecasting where future development might take place in the district so that the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino remains an active contributor to the area’s economic development as sprawl naturally occurs in the district.

Designers took the project’s site planning very seriously, since placement of the main entry and access to key community–based amenities would greatly affect the success of the overall development.  The first phase implementation created a unique place making element, the Seneca Walk, as a signature pedestrian entryway to the property that also sets the tone for future development.

Memphis, Tenn.-based Hnedak Bobo Group (HBG) is a national leader in the design of casino resorts. For more information on the company, visit

Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Only the Second U.S. Casino to Receive Green Globes for New Construction Certification

Memphis, TN (July 14, 2016) – The Green Building Initiative has announced Desert Diamond West Valley Casino in Maricopa County, Arizona, as only the second casino in the U.S. to earn Green Globes for New Construction Certification status. Green Globes is a nationally-recognized eco-friendly and sustainable design rating assessment and certification program.

The new 50,000 square foot casino property, which is phase I of a future resort complex, is owned and operated by the Tohono O’odham Nation, and was designed by national casino resort designers, HBG (Hnedak Bobo Group).

Treena Parvello, Director of Public Relations and Communications for the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, said “We are thrilled that our continuing commitment to the environment has earned Desert Diamond Casino a prestigious Green Globe. Having HBG as a partner on this project helped us to ensure that we created a space that is not only sustainable, but also fully functional in addition to complementing the area in which it was built. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

“Working with the Tohono O’odham Nation, Desert Diamond Casino and The Green Building Initiative in this endeavor has been very fulfilling; and our team is enthusiastic about integrating more sustainable features and efficiencies into the resort’s future phases,” says Rob Lee, AIA, principal at HBG and project manager for the project.

“This level of sustainability shows a commitment by the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise to the environment,” said David Eldridge, Green Globes Assessor, “and it demonstrates the abilities of HBG and the other members of the design and construction team to implement the desired features as part of the project.”

Project management processes, site location, planning, design and sustainable material selection were key drivers for the Green Globes certification for Desert Diamond West Valley Casino. Among a few of the standouts are:

  • An integrated design process (IDP) – Performance goals were set and reviewed during multiple stages of construction including site design, envelope requirements, materials, energy use, water use, and overall sustainability.
  • The development area – The project was built within a half mile of a commercial zone, away from sensitive areas, out of the flood plain and on a previously developed site. Credit was also awarded for participation in the planned development surrounding an important entertainment and sports district on the west side of the Phoenix Metro area.
  • Ecological impacts – The project included an erosion control plan, reduction of the heat island effect, improvement of the local ecology, minimized disturbance of the site and minimized impact to natural species and habitats.
  • Landscaping – Significant planning went into soil type, plant locations and the selection of drought tolerant plants that are native to the area.
  • Stormwater management – The casino design included control measures for the volume of stormwater, as well as methods to improve the quality of stormwater for reclamation.
  • Exterior light pollution – The lighting design included reduction of light trespass (spilling over into other areas) and reduction of glare with efficient fixtures in the parking lot.

The phase I casino is planned to revert to use as warehouse space once the larger casino resort experience opens. Because of the transitional nature of the phase I casino, designers used an abundance of sustainable materials, including carpeting made from recycled materials. Paint was used instead of the typical vinyl wall covering, and fixtures were designed to be transportable to the future casino development.

The Green Globe certification program recognizes the commitment to environmentally efficient design, construction and operational practices, and provides customized guidance in the implementation of high-performance interiors and buildings.

Isle of Capri Bettendorf's 'Little Move is Big News': HBG Designed Casino Expansion Holds Grand Opening

35,000 feet of new and innovative play.
509 comfortable rooms.
3 new restaurants with farm-to-table eats
975 red-hot slots
And $60 million in upgrades and amenities for a better-than-ever experience.

Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. (NASDAQ:  ISLE) announced today that Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf opened its new $60 million, land-based casino to the public at 10 a.m. central on June 24 with approximately 1,000 people passing through the turnstiles in the first few hours.

The casino includes approximately 1,000 slot machines, 19 table games, and two restaurants includingFarmer’s Pick Buffet®andKeller’s Express®,Lone Wolf® Bar is located on the gaming floor. An additional restaurant,Keller’s American Grillwill open later this year.

“This property has come a long way from its humble beginnings with a small riverboat sailing up and down the river more than 25 years ago,” said Eric Hausler, Isle’s chief executive officer. “Today we reveal a new single-level casino, two new restaurants, with a third to open soon, a grand new entrance, and a consolidated hotel lobby located between our two hotel towers.

“We thank our general contractor, architect, and all of the local tradespeople for sharing their expertise with us. The employees here at Bettendorf are dedicated to providing first class customer service and they are excited to share our new experience with everyone.”

The General Contractor on the project was Kraus-Anderson Construction, and the lead architect was Hnedak Bobo Group, Inc.

For more information about the project, visit

Indian Gaming Magazine features Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Resort

See article in Indian Gaming Magazine

Located in the heart of a bustling entertainment and sports district on the west side of the Phoenix Metro area, the new Desert Diamond West Valley Casino – owned and operated by the Tohono O’odham Nation – is developed around the core concept of a truly unique entertainment experience for regional gaming patrons.

Designed by national casino resort designers, HBG-Hnedak Bobo Group, the firm completed a master plan for a larger proposed casino resort development, planned as a significant amenity within the surrounding West Valley entertainment district.

As phase one of the casino resort complex, the 50,000 square foot casino opened to excited crowds-numbering well over 3,000 guests-on December 19, 2015. The new casino offers a full Class 2 gaming experience with 1089 gaming machines, an edge bar, and a 75-seat food court. The casino and future phases are being constructed on a greenfield site, former agricultural land south of 95th and Northern Avenues in Maricopa County.

“The phase one casino will ultimately complement the overall future resort aesthetic, but will stand-out among subsequent phases with its own unique design and structure,” says Rob Lee, AIA, principal at HBG and project manager for the project.

According to HBG lead designers, Thor Harland and Emily Marshall, IIDA, the angular exterior elevation merges materiality, from its array of soft green and white tiled accents that form the centerpiece to the multi-hued stone at columns and base. Materials combine to form a beautiful contrast against the desert backdrop, gracefully beckoning guests toward the exciting entertainment experience found within.

 “Visually, the casino exterior applies a subtle contemporary palette of cool, earthy green tones within an interpretive desert vernacular that speaks to the surrounding region,” says Harland.

Designers chose simple elements without relying on ornamentation. Strong angles found in the Arizona landscape inspired the geometry found within, and are incorporated into the custom lighting, fabric patterns and detail wall accents.

“The high quality casino interiors incorporate a more masculine palette of bright blues, greens, reds, golds and silvers,” adds Marshall. The color palette is enlivened by internally-illuminated, custom-designed circular and trapezoidal lighting elements, which intertwine and hang prominently from an open ceiling plane. Varying lighting styles highlight different gaming and food and beverage zones.

This play of curving and angular geometry is seen clearly at the edge bar, a focal point on the casino floor, which is highlighted by a dramatic, patterned back-bar wall featuring integrated lighting details.

The attention to every detail was deliberate, from the types of slot machines and where they were placed in the facility to the open aisles and the chairs.

Gaming floor chairs were custom-made at a height and style that matches where a patron feels most comfortable sitting, offering wider bottoms and wider backs and comfortable cushioning. Additionally, the aisles between the rows of gaming machines, at 14 feet wide, are two to three feet wider than in most casinos, designed to offer greater accessibility.

The present casino is planned to revert to use as warehouse support space once the larger casino resort experience opens. Because of the transitional nature of the phase one casino, designers used an abundance of sustainable materials, including carpeting made from recycled materials. Paint was used instead of a typical vinyl wall covering, and fixtures were designed to be transportable to the future casino development.

To smartly plan for future expansion, the infrastructure was put in place now to support the full resort build-out to come. The phase one casino is part of an approximately 150,000- square-foot building that houses equipment, furnishings, generators, office workers, heating and cooling towers, security systems, and employee lockers and check-in stations.

“The phase one casino groundbreaking was held in August 2014, and the project construction took just 16 months from start to finish,” says Lee. “Working with the Tohono O’odham Nation and Desert Diamond Casino in this endeavor has been very fulfilling; and our team is enthusiastic about moving forward with future phases.”

Quote from the client:

Treena Parvello, Director of Public Relations and Communications for the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, said “The Enterprise prides itself on developing lasting partnerships with its projects.  Hnedak Bobo Group has proven to be a great partner and their extensive experience with Native communities served them well in dealing with the Tohono O’odham Nation.  This project also included multiple external challenges, all of which required HBG to work quickly and remain agile.  We could not be more pleased with the quality and professionalism HBG demonstrated throughout this process.”

The word is out: HBG’s hometown Memphis, TN, is the next ‘Hot Southern City’!

From its eclectic arts districts, its nationally acclaimed chef-driven restaurants, its family-friendly activities, and dedicated schools focused on a wide variety of learning needs, the word is out about Memphis, Tennessee. HBG has the inside track, of course. Memphis has been our hometown since our founding in 1979. Take a look at the latest article about Memphis in Travel and Leisure magazine, and check back for our series on ‘What Makes Memphis Great’. We want you to love Memphis as much as we do!

HBG a Proud Supporter of ZeroLandfill 2016

HBG is a proud supporter of ZeroLandfill™ Memphis, which is an award winning upcycling program held seasonally that supports the supply needs of local artists, teachers and non-profits while reducing pressure on local landfill capacity.

HBG interior designers  have collected and saved a year’s worth of samples to donate, diverting these materials from the local landfill. To find out more about ZeroLandfill™ visit

HBG a "Champion of Licensure"

See full article on the NCARB Blog

When considering which architecture firms to apply to, look for ones that go above and beyond with innovative projects, international learning opportunities, and overall support of aspiring architects on the road to licensure. Some shining examples are the 2015-2018 IDP Outstanding Firm Award Winners. Learn how these champions of licensure set a high bar when it comes to helping aspiring architects succeed.

HBG, which has offices in Memphis, TN, and San Diego, creates many opportunities for aspiring architects to launch their career. The firm focuses on “inventing, empowering, and preparing the next generation for a future of limitless possibilities in the profession,” according to Principal and Practice Leader Rick Gardner, AIA, Principal and Practice Leader.

The firm’s innovative EDGE Program (Envision Development and Goals Experience) builds teamwork and leadership skills by evaluating personality types to build effective relationships and leverage each person’s strengths. The program also helps participants set goals and take responsibility for their professional development through the Emerging Professionals Studio (EPStudio). The peer-led studio immerses aspiring architects in professional training, providing opportunities for both mentorship and leadership throughout the experience. Plus, the firm’s GOH Travel Scholarship provides an international research experience to broaden an aspiring architect’s knowledge and demonstrate the global impact of architecture.

To help alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with licensure, HBG pays for NCARB Records, reimburses the cost of all passed ARE divisions, and even pays for membership to professional organizations. The firm also provides free study materials and maintains a library of ARE prep materials.

Gardner encourages aspiring architects to “visualize your plan, work with mentors and peers to remove obstacles, and follow through on the commitment to yourself. Until you cross that threshold of licensure, you are limiting your options. What we do matters to the human experience and has an effect on future generations. It’s a wonderful thing to be an architect, and we should all want to reach the highest level possible in our professional accreditation. You’ll be glad you did.”

NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens salutes HBG

Opening the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) trade show today in Phoenix, Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr., with AC Green, former LA Lakers basketball player, welcomes and acknowledges HBG's partnership and commitment to Indian Gaming.

"There are a lot of good friends in Indian Country, but those friends who have given back to Indian Country and participated in our processes in defending and standing by tribal sovereignty…that’s where I call on Dike Bacon and Hnedak Bobo Group." - Ernie Stevens, Jr.

Highlights from The Guest House at Graceland Topping Ceremony

Check out the highlights from The Guest House at Graceland’s Topping Out ceremony in this great video by Elvis Presley Enterprises. Fast-forward to Mark Weaver’s speech to learn more about the inspiration behind the design.

The Guest House at Graceland Reveals Design Elements

Featured in Hospitality Design

Memphis-based Hnedak Bobo Group (HBG) has revealed the design elements for the Guest House at Graceland, a 450-room hotel located just steps from Elvis Presley’s iconic Graceland mansion in Memphis. Set to open in October, the design is inspired both by Elvis’s personal style and his historic home. HBG designers researched the mansion for more than two years, and worked closely with Priscilla Presley to complete the project.

“We all recognize Graceland almost as a time capsule of 1970s design,” says Mark Weaver, HBG principal and lead designer for the project. “But if Elvis was here today, he most likely wouldn’t design his new guest house to look like it was still 1975. So, we took cues from his design style using contemporary pieces to pull it all together. We focused on creating a sense of intimacy between the guest and the property—creating a way for visitors to have an informal and personal experience as a true guest of Graceland that has previously not been possible… an experience that—we think—would make Elvis proud.”

The classic Greek revival façade of the original mansion, built in 1939, is echoed as the centerpiece of the Guest House façade. The central portion of the hotel's exterior celebrates the original mansion in form, scale, and materials.

“From the main entry door to the large gabled roof and columned entry portico, our goal was to make this hotel look as if it was built not long after Graceland itself,” says Weaver. “It will feel like it has always been here.”

Another prominent design feature is the expansive porch, which accommodates seating from both the restaurant and lounge, and embodies Elvis’s sense of Southern hospitality. His presence is woven throughout the hotel, with features including a lobby ceiling inspired by the pattern and movement of one of his signature capes.