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June 13, 2024
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Casino/Hotel Development Completed in Tacoma, WA


Work has been completed on the Emerald Queen Casino and Hotel, a 310k sf resort property in Tacoma, WA. The project, a development of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, was designed by global architecture firm Cuningham.

The destination includes 100k sf of slots and table games, a 2,000-seat event center, five food and beverage venues, two parking garages, and a 12-story, 155-room hotel. Cuningham led the architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture efforts for the brand-new facility, which replaces a previous nearby location that consisted of a converted bingo hall and tents.

“This state-of-the-art, resort-style gaming destination is the culmination of a long-term vision of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians,” says Brett K. Ewing, AIA, Principal and Executive Director of Cuningham’s Play Studio. “The tribe first acquired the Emerald Queen Casino as a paddle-boat casino nearly 25 years ago, eventually expanding to two locations, and now is solidifying its footprint with a ground-up development that brings a fresh, exciting experience with a venue that represents deep ties to the tribe’s culture and the local landscape.”

Ewing explains that the facility is also one of the first tribal casino developments to be built above ground, spanning multiple parcels and city streets. This is in line with the trend of tribes pursuing development opportunities in urban settings on unclaimed land trusts, driving higher return on investment.

“Integrating the hotel and casino, especially the expanse of the gaming floor, into Tacoma’s urban infrastructure required a one-of-a-kind, innovative design solution,” continues Ewing. “Due to site constraints, the Emerald Queen Casino’s gaming floor and amenities are strategically placed four levels above the ground floor and structurally supported by two parking garages. This unique layout required that we obtain air rights from the city and NIGC approval for gaming over public streets.”

Not only does this layout reclaim the lost space above a restrictive city grid – it results in a breathtaking building that is highly visible from the interstate and provides panoramic views of the culturally significant Mt. Rainier and Puget Sound. Large expanses of glass windows enhance these views, provide exceptional daylighting, and emphasize an exterior and interior connection, notes Ewing.

The design intentionally emphasizes the juxtaposition of the kinetic energy of the casino and the reprieve of the hotel and restaurant off the gaming floor. The upscale caliber of the hotel rooms is in alignment with the design quality of the casino resort overall. Additional design elements tying back to the culture of the Puyallup, as well as the history of the regional landscape and the casino itself, include:

· The Café lanterns featuring traditional basket-weave patterns
· The dynamic atrium light fixture with the visual depiction of the traditional tale of three sisters descending to Earth on the stars
· The Coffee bar’s paddle wheel design, a nod to The Emerald Queen’s origins as a paddle-boat casino
· Abstract references to the local forests in the High Limit’s enclosure and the Hotel Lobby dappled light tree canopies.

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