Architects: Walsh Bishop
Location: Black Bear, Minnesota, USA
Head of Entertainment and Hospitality: Keith O’Brien
Project Team: Ian Scott, Dennis Walsh, Roger Santelman, Joe Wagner, David Serrano, Ed Wilms AIA, Ryan Radamacher, Suzanne Illten, Ann Farniock, Meghan Thorpe, Ross Anderson, Buck Gronberg, Gene Weringa, Dave Collins, Byron Kermeen , Jaime Brunotte
Photographs: Albert Vecerka, Esto Photographics, Walsh Bishop
The Black Bear Casino Resort is located in Northern Minnesota about a half hour southwest of Duluth and two hours north of Minneapolis. Black Bear is one of the many resort and vacation properties that exist as part of the travel and vacation area known as the North shore of Minnesota. Due to increased patronage and community need, the Fond du Lac band of Ojibwe sought to turn the existing Black Bear casino and hotel into a destination resort. The expanded 450,000 SF resort facility added the following features (larger casino, new 250 room hotel, parking ramp, event center, food venues, and retail shop).
The site for this renovation and expansion was positioned on a triangular property that is bounded on two sides by protected wetlands and on the third by the Interstate. The expansion, which was phased to allow the gaming facility to remain open during construction, was organized to take advantage of the views to the woodlands and wetlands, present a compelling entry experience both day and night, orient itself to take advantage of different kinds of daylight, and breakdown its scale to enhance the user experience. The project also followed the Ojibwe mandate for stewardship of the land making sure the development protected the surrounding wetlands and forests.
The North shore resort market is saturated with nature themed structures. Black Bear took a fresh look at the north shore, examining its textures, colors, and patterns in order to deliver a modern take on this classic resort theme. These patterns and textures were pushed in a phenomenal way in the development of the use of daylight.
This innovative use of daylight is best demonstrated in the public area ceilings. In these areas translucent materials are used to capture both natural and artificial light and provide a soft glow that changes over the course of the day. Large glowing windows along the perimeter serve a dual purpose of diffusing daylight for the interior spaces and receiving colored LED light; forming a series of kinetic billboards in the evening.
User comfort was a driving factor in the interior design. By the use of a pressurized raised floor system in the gaming floor the air quality of the space is greatly improved by providing clean tempered air at the floor level and the gently pushing air to the ceiling.
This project and its amenities have been beneficial to the area as a whole. The construction team was assembled from local contractors and the facility currently employs 850 people. The resort draws business from the entire region and provides a versatile unexpected destination and steady positive economic impact.