Mohegan Sun is showing its impressive hand with the new Casino of the Wind, a 64,000-sq.ft. facility designed by the Rockwell Group and architects Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo (WATG). The space opened this past summer and features over 650 slot machines, a 42-table poker room with 23 50" flat screen televisions, 28 additional gaming tables, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, and the newly revamped Chief's Deli. Key design elements featured in the new space include a 35'×50' electronic and animated water feature that acts as a projection screen, four 35' stacked solid glass columns, and a custom chandelier located above the new 30-seat bar. The $1 billion expansion was the largest private development project on the East Coast for its two-year duration, and the Uncasville, CT, casino hosts over 35,000 visitors daily on its 3.5 million-sq-ft. property.
The design for Mohegan Sun's new Casino of the Wind builds on the centuries-old stories of Mohegan culture already illustrated in the nearby Casino of the Earth and Casino of the Sky. New York City-based Rockwell Group designed all of the public spaces, including the casinos, bars, poker room, and food court. Senior design visionary for Rockwell Group David Mexico says, “The concept in this new space was to create a dreamy windswept landscape — an ethereal experience rather than a physical place.”
Lighting design firm Focus Lighting of New York City worked to evoke several distinct feelings within the space, including that of moonlight through mountaintop trees and a lunar eclipse. “To achieve these feelings while keeping the space as energy-efficient as possible, the majority of the sources implemented were LED or metal halide,” notes Focus Lighting designer Christine Hope. “This allowed us to build up many layers of richly colored light, while keeping our watts per square foot minimal.”
Gaining inspiration from the Native American Mohegan tribe, David Rockwell, founder and CEO of the Rockwell Group, explains the main design focus, saying, “We wanted to create an engaging environment that reveals the progression of the Mohegan tribe. For the materials, hues, and design features throughout the casino, we really looked to significant legends, foods, and landscapes of the Mohegan tribe, while always stressing the central theme of the wind.” Since the Casino of the Wind is accessed directly from the adjacent Sky Casino, the design team strove to deliver an environment that both preserved the integrity of the existing casino design, while simultaneously introducing a new venue that offered a unique atmosphere.
The team sought to infuse each aspect of the project with the wind-based design philosophy, a creative challenge in itself. There are suspended ribbons symbolizing the four sacred winds hung throughout the space and a sculptural wall that imitates the flow of wind with a series of grooved, deep-toned plaster ribs. The chandelier above the main bar echoes the form of a tree trunk comprised of mercury glass branches mixed with petrified wood, and the poker room, appearing as if the wind brought through a storm with twisted cedar screens and glass valances, features a chandelier of glass and silver beads representing rain. Mexico adds, “The interior strikes a balance between the dramatic lighting on key elements that are suspended within the space and the warm, undulating backdrop of the perimeter plaster walls that serve to embrace the patrons.”
For the media water feature, content based on different moods achieves the feeling and atmosphere. “When we created the video, we had a vision of the LED lighting and water as one complete element,” Rockwell explains.
The architectural lighting in the casino is controlled by an ETC Unison system. Due to the size of the space, there are two different networked dimming locations, as well as certain elements that have integral LEDs to create uplight or backlight effects from within the architecture, such as the crystal clouds and chrome leaves. These lighting elements are controlled by a Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions/Color Kinetics LSM that is also networked to the Unison processor. The overall system is completely networked using seven High End Systems DL.3 projectors networked to an Instant Replay head end. “We are using the servers built into the DL.3 projectors, because they are very fast, DMX-controlled, and easy to manipulate for creative design purposes,” notes media and technology designer and show producer John Miceli from Technomedia.
Says Mexico, “All of the design elements fabricated within the Casino of the Wind are prototypes and one-offs. Our greatest challenges came from monitoring material quality control and coordinating design and detailing issues, all within the constraints of the established construction schedule.” Miceli emphasizes the challenges faced in order to make the water feature come together. “Programming the mechanics of the water as we envisioned it was quite difficult,” he says. “To use basic mechanical systems that also achieve the nuances necessary to tell the story of Casino of the Wind is like trying to get a football player to ballet dance!” The projectors were rigged 35' above the casino floor, and Miceli worked tirelessly with the collage function of the DL.3s to create a floor-to-ceiling image on the water feature that was perfectly straight and rectangular.
Hope explains the lighting department's biggest challenge: creating the mysterious layered look of light and shadow while keeping the wattage low and maintainable. “In much of this space, we don't have a dimming system, and the metal halide sources are controlled by color filters and mesh screens,” she says. “It was challenging in that everything had to be mocked up, sometimes multiple times, to make sure the levels and lamping were right prior to specification and installation.”
These unique designs will continue honoring one of Mother Nature's most powerful elements along with the timeless traditions of the Mohegan Tribe well into the 21st century.
CASINO OF THE WIND PROJECT TEAM
Lead Designer: Rockwell Group
Architect of Record: WATG
Lighting Designer: Focus Lighting
Audio-Visual Consultant: Technomedia
Water Feature Consultant: Fluidity
Structural Engineer: DeSimone Engineers
MEP Engineer: Flack + Kurtz Engineers
David Rockwell: Founder and CEO
David Mexico: Principal & Lead Designer
Robert Ashton: Studio Leader
Michael Romano: Project Manager
Linda Zarifi: Lead Interior Designer
Gale Ginzburg: Interior Designer
FOCUS LIGHTING, INC.
Paul Gregory: Principal Designer
Christine Hope: Lighting Designer
Cat Tate: Assistant Lighting Designer
Jeff Shepard: Assistant Lighting Designer
Dan Nichols: Project Manager
John Miceli: Media and Technology Design, Show Producer
Kristin Wemlinger: Project Manager
Mark Butts: Programmer
Matt Gall: Senior Field Supervisor
Rich Billings: Field Supervisor
LIGHTING EQUIPMENT (Provided by Focus Lighting)
200 Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions/ Color Kinetics LED SLX Nodes
1270' IO Linear LED
4500' Boca Flasher LED
271 ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal
217 ETC Source Four PAR
336 Times Square Lighting Metal Halide MR16 Adjustable Track Heads
1,070 Times Square Lighting MR16 Adjustable Track Heads
215 RSA Recessed Adjustable Accents
WATER FEATURE EQUIPMENT (Provided by Technomedia)
7 High End Systems DL.3
1 Linksys SFE2000P 24-Way Unmanaged Ethernet Switch with PoE
1 MA Lighting grandMA Replay Unit
3 Pathway Pathport C-Series 6202 2 Way DMX Node
1 Triplite TRI-SU1500RTXL2UA Rack Mount UPS
1 AMX NXD-CV5 5" Touch Panel
1 AMX NI-700 NetLinx Controller
1 AMX AXB-MIDI (FG5913) Midi Card
1 AC Node RM6195 Rack Mount 19" LCD Monitor
1 AC Node RK1000B Rack Mount Keyboard w/Trackball
1 Middle Atlantic WRK-37SA-32 37 Unit 19" Equipment Rack