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Mississippi Welcomes $290M Casino

Tentatively scheduled to open New Year’s Eve 2015, the $290 million Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort in D’Iberville will become the 13th casino on the Mississippi coast.

Tue December 23, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

Tentatively scheduled to open New Year’s Eve 2015, the $290 million Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort in D’Iberville will become the 13th casino on the Mississippi coast. Backers are gambling the project will stand out in an already crowded field.

“The market generally consists of pre-Katrina projects more than ten years old,” said Randall Fine, managing director of The Fine Point Group, which oversees public relations for the property. “While substantial renovation and expansion has taken place, the market is ripe for its first master-planned, land-based facility. We believe the Mississippi Gulf Coast market has great potential as our economy and tourism industries improve. We think that with both our resort and amenity product, we will help give new reasons for more people to come to the Gulf Coast.”

Included in the plans is a 60,000-sq.ft. (5,574 sq m) casino, along with a hotel, a miniature golf course, three restaurants and an outdoor food truck pavilion.

“The community is very excited about this addition to their city,” Fine said. “People have been hoping for a casino in their town for over twenty years. We’ve had positive feedback from many civic organizations, church groups, the mayor and other city officials. We believe this is something the entire city will be very proud of.”

A groundbreaking took place in July. Fine said early on, officials wanted to convey a sense of energy and excitement that’s represented by the New South and the rebirth of the Gulf Coast. With more than 1,300 gaming machines, 45 table games and 10 poker tables offered, organizers hope gamblers will find the casino resort is built specifically with their needs in mind, as they enjoy the various amenities.

“The hotel tower will have 300 rooms on 15 floors,” Fine said. “The top floor will be all penthouse suites. The adventure mini-golf course will feature a volcano that will erupt periodically. There will be a lot of water features and elevation changes.”

Like any project of its size, a great deal of work went into the planning, site selection, regulatory compliance and financing.

“It’s extremely gratifying for everyone involved to see the project under construction. We’re very excited to be building a single-level, land-based facility, with the easiest parking access in the market. We think our location just off the I-110 will make us the first choice for people traveling from the regional markets that frequent the Biloxi casinos. We couldn’t be happier about the proximity to the interstate and our location overall.”

Fine said no detail was overlooked, including the resort’s christening.

“We spent countless hours brainstorming, trying to develop a name that captured the feeling of the new, forward-looking South,” said Fine. “We think it evokes our proud history, as well as being exciting and forward-looking.”

As for the economic impact, Fine said many jobs will be created.

“On an ongoing basis, the annual payroll will exceed $33 million,” Fine said. “Much of that payroll will go to local residents in the city of D’Iberville.”

In addition, at the peak of construction, about 500 construction workers will reportedly be working on site. Mississippi-based Roy Anderson Corp is serving as general contractor.

“This property has a long history,” said Jason Taylor, project executive of Roy Anderson Corp. “It was once home to a post office, a school, a convent and, most recently, a neighborhood. Our contract included the demolition of several houses and streets and construction of a new public road.

“The early stages of construction are happening, as the design for those aspects is ongoing. This takes a tremendous amount of coordination between RAC and the design team because we do not have a complete set of plans and specifications to build from.”

Most of the phases of construction are working concurrently, but crews have completed the installation of the 1,300 auger cast piles and the structural excavation. All activities have been carried out as planned.

“We are currently preparing to pour the first portion of the elevated slab, approximately 20,000 square feet,” Taylor said. “At the same time, we are continuing the installation of underground utilities and finishing the foundation work for the balance of the building.

“Aside from the demolition, it was basically a typical clear/grub type of site. Several thousand yards of fill material was incorporated into the project, to bring the site to its design elevation. We were able to use native materials and a majority of the pile spoils for the areas that needed fill.”

The site slopes up and away from the bay separating D’Iberville from Biloxi, challenging crews to keep silt and sediment from leaving the site and entering the bay.

“We successfully do this by installing and maintaining multiple layers of erosion control silt fence and berms,” Taylor said. “The 800-foot rule and flood zone boundaries affect the design, but once that’s approved by the permit office and gaming commission, it doesn’t really change our means or methods of construction.”

Equipment being used on the project includes a Komatsu trackhoe, a Caterpillar dozer, multiple skytrack forklifts and a handful of dump trucks. Workers are facing a fast-paced construction schedule that calls for an elaborate curtain wall façade on the tower and EIFS system façade on the podium/casino.

“We spend a tremendous amount of time preparing for and inspecting the construction of the entire building envelope,” said Taylor. Inside the building, we are constructing a customized interior design with materials from all over the world. Everything on this project will require a ton of planning and coordination.”

So far, there have been only minor setbacks.

“We had a major gas main and communication duct bank that ran through the center of our project, said Taylor. “The utility companies relocated their lines outside the limits of construction without incident.”

Most of the significant construction tasks remain, including the structural concrete, steel, curtain wall, EIFS, drywall, flooring and mill work. As for the miniature golf course, specialty teams will be involved in that aspect of the project.

“We’ve hired a company that will both design and build the golf course,” Taylor said. “They will import approximately 5,000 cubic yards of fill material to transform a flat, one-acre site to a 36-hole mini golf course with several elevation changes. The course includes several streams, waterfalls and ponds and a 30-foot volcano with a 15-foot flame that ’erupts’ on a timer.”

Taylor said winter months are not a major concern for crews.

“In this area, cold weather does not typically affect us. We may experience a day or two of freezing rain as a front pushes through, but the cold weather does not affect us like it would in the northern states.”

Although the hours can be long and expectations are high, Taylor said the work is never dull.

“The fact that this is D’Iberville’s first casino makes it a very newsworthy and interesting project. The subcontractors, design team, owners and owners’ representatives keep it interesting and fun every day.”

“The goal and concept of the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort project is to celebrate the enchanting past, intriguing present and joyful future of Mississippi by creating a destination not only focused on gaming, but also on family entertainment destination and amenities,” said architect Nory Hazaveh, principal of SOSH Design of New York. “The Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort has incorporated family-oriented entertainment with gaming by creating a destination complete with an extravagant, glamorous hotel, restaurants, retail shopping areas, an outdoor state-of-the-art swimming pool, an adventurous miniature golf course and fitness center.

“Working out of New York City, where our environment is vertical, our team was immediately impressed by this site location upon our first arrival in 2011. The façade of the high-rise is custom glass reflecting the designer’s approach to southern mansions, as well as exposure to bright sun and the Gulf of Mexico. The glass is fitted with white frits varying in scale mimicking calming waves from exterior, as well as the interior of the all-suite hotel tower.

The project will feature LED lighting, large format stone flooring and the pearlescent stone columns. Hazaveh believes the main tower, visible from highway 10, will serve as a beacon of modern approach to casino hotel resorts.

“Custom glazing is carried down the front entry, giving patrons a gorgeous view from a distance, as well as in close proximity,” said Hazaveh. “Since the inception of this design, SOSH has created an atmosphere of resort modernity complemented with southern hospitality. Bright colors and friendly spaces create a sense of energy and relaxation. The spirit of the American South, or ’Dixie,’ is an important aspect depicted in the design and concept, with an emphasis on family entertainment destinations.

“What’s impressive about the coast is the ample light and air, which we encapsulated in the all glass hotel rooms and light reflections throughout the lobby and casino. D’Iberville is across the bay from Biloxi featuring beautiful water views of the surrounding area that allowed SOSH Designers to effectively implement this full-service resort environment.

For the design team, the location of the hotel on the Gulf was duly noted.

“As widely known, this area is subject to very hot and humid summers as well as frequent hurricanes,” said Hazaveh. “Concerns such as flooding require the casino to be raised 18 feet above ground level. After Hurricane Katrina, new regulations were put in place to ensure public safety which all designers support and contribute to. With confidence, we have designed a resort destination which enjoys the latest technology to overcome any environmental elements.”

SOSH has 35 years of large-scale hospitality design in its portfolio, which Hazaveh said is helpful, but no reason to rest on its laurels

“Each project is taken for its own merit and site requirement. SOSH does not believe in a cookie-cutter approach. We pursue style appropriate for the project and we focus on the patron experience.”

Hazaveh addressed the misconception that this casino project is only about gaming requirements,

“On the contrary, projects of this magnitude are about entertainment, dining and human interactions,” Hazaveh said. “The art of slot parlors have long been challenged by patrons who are demanding more than a gaming seat. Our company has been at the forefront in developing when used to enhance patron’s experience. A casino resort is not simply a place for gaming — it is a place for multifunctional entertainment.

“Our goal is to create an environment that is welcoming, warm, fun and exciting in nature. We appeal to all generations by providing something for everyone. We create an energetic space that encourages fluid movement, while remaining aesthetically appealing in design and color scheme.”

Sustainability also was a consideration. The firm used white glass to reflect the severe sun, LED lighting and insulation valves to incorporate efficient use. Because the casino resort will be a smoking facility, it does not qualify for LEED certification.

“D’Iberville and its residents are seeking new development post Hurricane Katrina to revive the entertainment district, and The Scarlet Pearl is paving the way, said Hazaveh. “Scarlet Pearl will bring jobs and additional revenues enough to supply the police force, fire and city employees, as well as pay for sewer and drainage projects needed in the area. In addition to giving patrons an experience of hospitality in a Southern style, our team was pleased to work with the community which has been pursuing first-class state of the art resort casino entertainment.”

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