Olivia Joseph Hensgens photo
Crews lay storm drainage pipe along the parking lot.
Inspired by Jimmy Buffett’s signature song, the new Margaritaville Resort and Casino in Bossier City, La., is being embraced by both the industry and “Parrotheads” who’ve visited the facility. The $205 million casino and hotel, which opened in June, is located on the east bank of the Red River.
“We are a destination resort in the true sense of the term,” said Margaritaville Resort and Casino CEO Paul Alanis. “We’ve brought the best of what Las Vegas has to offer to Shreveport and Bossier City. We have a beautiful, casually elegant casino, with the newest, most exciting slots, spectacular high-limit areas within the casino, first-class rooms, food and entertainment, shopping at the Boardwalk, movie theaters within walking distance, numerous additional dining options in the Boardwalk and a fabulous pool deck and spa.”
The casino is approximately 46,000 sq. ft. (4,273.5 sq m) on a single level, with about 30,000 ft. (9,144 m) of gaming area, as measured by Louisiana Gaming Control Board standards. The 18-level hotel has 396 rooms, including three-dozen suites. The facility features the popular “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” bar and a more than 900-seat entertainment venue.
“Guests have universally given us praise and compliments for the quality and beauty of the facility and the friendliness of our staff,” said Alanis. “In addition, at the G2E conference in Las Vegas last month — by far the largest trade show for the gaming industry — we won first place for the best designed casino in the over $100 million category for 2013.
“It was very exciting and satisfying to watch the building take shape, as I knew it would be something special. It turned out to be even better and more beautiful than I had imagined in the beginning. We built this in very difficult economic times, so financing was a bit of a challenge, but we accomplished it with very enthusiastic lenders and investors.
“The state, the parish, the city and the Gaming Control Board have all been extremely supportive and helpful. There are lots of regulations to comply with, but compared to other states, Louisiana, and this community in particular, are a true pleasure to deal with as they are supportive of firms, like ours, that create significant economic benefit and job growth.”
Construction began in Bossier City February of 2012, following the official groundbreaking ceremony attended by Buffett, developers, the mayor, city councilmen, Bossier police jurors, representatives of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation and the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. Officials promised the resort would be a major boost for the area, providing jobs for construction workers still struggling to find employment.
Approximately 500 crew members were on the premises at the project’s peak, but getting started on Margaritaville Resort Casino wasn’t pretty. The building site served as a city dump where construction debris had been buried approximately 15 to 20 ft. (4.6 to 6.1 m) deep for the past 35 years. A mass excavation was required to remove piles of material, with suitable fill brought in. Site access was extremely tight for construction deliveries, due to the adjacent property of Bass Pro Shops and a neighborhood where hours were limited on the residential street.
As the civil construction subcontractor, Lafayette-based Patriot Construction and Equipment LLC performed the site work. Crews were responsible for clearing the property of trees and dirt, demolishing existing structures and tackling the concrete paving and retaining walls.
“We were the first company on the job and the last to leave; however, we weren’t mobilized there for the entire job, said Patriot co-owner Michael Hensgens. “We went in initially to do all the building foundation work to get them started. While the building construction was wrapping up, we remobilized and constructed the parking lot and storm drainage system. We first mobilized in February 2012 to July 2012, and from April 2013 to June 2013. We just made it happen, and tackled each scope of work and any challenges that arose.
“The entire construction project was built on top of an old landfill; therefore, the building area foundation had to be excavated approximately 15 feet and then brought back up to grade in select structural fill,” Hensgens said. “Also, to bridge over the landfill construction debris, the entire parking lot had to be raised three feet, with a combination of imported sand and limestone.”
The amount of excavation totaled 69,000 cu. yds. (52,754.3 cu m), while the structural fill that was imported and installed amounted to 74,500 cu. yds. (56,959.3 cu m). Some 96,200 cu. yds. (73,550.2 cum) of dirt was moved and installed on site. In addition, 56,000 tons (50,802.3 t) of stone was brought in for use on the project at various times.
Equipment used for site preparation included Cat D8 dozers, Cat D6N dozers, Cat D6T dozers. Cat D5K dozers, Cat 14M motorgraders, a Cat 385 excavator, Cat 349 excavators, Cat 336 excavators, a Cat 740 off-road truck and Cat compactors.
“Like every large civil project we undertake, having the right equipment is crucial,” said Hensgens. “In our operations, it’s all about production and quality of work. Down time due to breakdowns or doing work twice is not an option. We run all new equipment with a fleet of the biggest, baddest equipment they make, accompanied with the newest, state-of-the-art Topcon machine control GPS systems. You have to be as productive and efficient as possible during the short windows of dry weather to beat the schedule and be profitable. We had an average of 12 men working 12 hour days, six days a week, and made up any delays on Sundays.”
“Due to some last-minute adjustments in the design of the parking lot, we weren’t released on the second phase of the project , which included the entire parking lot and all corresponding earth work and storm drainage, until three months before the grand opening of the resort. We imported and installed approximately 59,000 cubic yards of sand, 60,500 square yards of geo fabric, 30,000 tons of limestone, 3,500 linear feet of storm drainage, 9,500 linear feet of curbing, and laid 12.5 acres of asphalt paving in less than two months. None of this would have been remotely possible if we didn’t employ the right equipment and qualified personnel to operate it,” said Hensgens.
“We actually created our own body of water, as we made a basin-like swimming pool for the boat to float in that’s actually above the Red River water level, said Betsy Tondreau, project manager of general contractor Roy Anderson Corp. This was challenging, as the dirt and foundation is soft, so for the structural support we had to install piles. We had approximately 930 piles that went into the ground, anywhere from 40 to 75 feet.”
A Comedil 561 tower crane, Kobelco CK2500 and Kobelco CK2000 crawler cranes were used to hoist material to the various locations. This included concrete, steel, formwork, equipment, supplies and pipe. In total, 29,436 cu. yds. (22,505.4 cu m) of concrete was used, along with 1,225 tons ( 1,111. 3 t) of structural steel and 2,615 tons (2,372.3 t) of reinforcing steel.
“As far as the casino,” said Tondreau, “when we filled the basin with water, it then started to ’float’ the casino floor as designed, meaning the keel slab lifted. Once the floor was stabilized and level, the carpet was installed. At that time, the Louisiana state police and gaming commission were monitoring all installations.”
MA Engineering Inc. served as the structural engineer on Margaritaville, while CHP and Associates Consulting Engineers Inc. was selected as MEP engineer. The architectural firm on the project was Cuningham Group Architecture Inc. of Minneapolis. Also involved in the design was McBride and Associates, who designed virtually all of Margaritaville’s corporate restaurants and projects. Interior design was performed by Suzanne Kisbye and Allison Alanis, based in Los Angeles.
“Our vision for this project was inspired by the strong Margaritaville brand, said Thomas Hoskens, AIA, vice president of Cuningham Group, It was great to work on a project that embodied a lifestyle that is so closely associated with the Gulf Coast and Jimmy Buffett.
“Designing for a hotel and a casino first requires a strong understanding of the guest experience and the complementary integration of design elements to make the project flow seamlessly from the guest’s perspective. We were able to achieve the right balance through careful communication with our client and the design team. Bringing a feeling of nature into an indoor environment should create a sense of enjoyment, along with an unexpected element of surprise. I think we accomplished this with the design of the island pagoda.”
Hoskens described the resort and casino as an architectural and naval engineering wonder.
“The first challenge came from the Louisiana Gaming Commission, which mandates the casino be on a boat or barge. The second challenge came from the Coast Guard, which considers boats and barges to be maritime vessels with their own independent systems able to operate independently from surrounding buildings with its own systems for power, water, sewer and fire protection.
“We embraced these design challenges, and went one-step further by designing the first cast-in-place concrete barge with a steel superstructure. In the past, previous casino barges had their roof structures resting on the land, not on the barge, as this one does. The basin that floats the barge is supported by auger-cast concrete pilings that penetrate through the soft riverbank sediments down to a solid rock layer of the earth.”
Cuningham Group worked closely with owner and operator Bossier Casino Venture to determine the design scheme for the property, which reflects a party atmosphere. The design of trellises on the top of the hotel tower reinforces the island theme. The hotel also features decks off guest rooms, which isn’t typical in high-rise hotels.
Incorporating green elements also was important to the team, according to Hoskens.
“Precast concrete in this project exudes durability and sustainability. It’s a 100-year material and structural system that boasts low maintenance, high adaptability, energy efficiency and reduced environmental hazards,” said Hoskens.
Margaritaville combines live entertainment and volcano shows, as well as a volcano bar, fishing and shrimp boats, a Blue Goose airplane hanging from the rafters, palm trees, island torches and aqua-colored spaces. It also offers a two-story trademark restaurant and seven specially designed, wood-topped bars. A six-foot-tall glass wall offering unobstructed views of the Red River and the entire resort surrounds the gaming floor.
Located on the north end of the Louisiana Boardwalk — now known as The Outlets at Louisiana Boardwalk — the casino transformed from the planning stage in May 2011 to opening its doors in June 2013. The July 4th grand opening celebration for the Margaritaville Resort Casino included a VIP concert that kicked off with Jimmy Buffett himself, followed by Lee Greenwood and a variety of other entertainers.
Margaritaville Resort Casino is projected to provide more than 1,500 jobs and over $12 million in local tax revenue. The Bossier City location is the third and largest of the Margaritaville-themed casinos. The other two are located in Las Vegas, Nev. and Biloxi, Miss.
“Most of the construction was performed by local firms, like Wilhite Electric, and we are extremely thankful to them and supportive of local businesses and community organizations, said Alanis. “We are proud to be part of this community, and want to be an important contributing member of the local economy for decades to come.”