A Live! Design at Indiana’s Newest Casino

Indiana has enjoyed waves of success with its riverboat casinos, and now joining the cove is the state’s newest gaming venue, the Indiana Live! Casino. But this new property isn’t your average Indiana gambling hall. It’s not docked and anchored, there’s no motor attached, and it certainly doesn’t have a captain onboard. Instead, this land-bound casino—the second in the state—is built with good ol’ bricks and mortar. But, it is making waves of its own as the closest gambling hall near downtown Indianapolis.

Developed at the existing Indianapolis Downs horserace facility, Indiana Live! opened last March with a 75,000-square-foot gaming floor featuring roughly 2,000 state-of-the-art slot machines and electronic blackjack, roulette and three-card poker devices. And while the property doesn’t have a hotel tower quite yet, it does have some great food and entertainment options just waiting for growling stomachs and happy-hour ready patrons, including the Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge, a NASCAR® Sports Grille, a Mediterranean marketplace, and a nightclub.

Behind the dazzle and glitz of the new Indiana Live! are some of the industry’s top design firms, including Las Vegas-based architects Klai Juba and interior design firm Cleo Design. These two creative forces, brought together by developer The Cordish Company in August 2007, put the finishing touches on this modern new gaming facility.

With the request to design a modern facility, the design team would also need to design a building that would complement its rural setting, function alongside the horseracing facility and, of course, show off its casino flavor. “The initial direction was inspired by images of one- and two-story buildings with large volumes that had a lot of glass, large overhangs and horizontal lines,” says John Klai, founding partner of Klai Juba.

The NASCAR® Sports GrilleKlai Juba used that inspiration to create a building exterior that captures the eye as patrons approach the property. Constructed of EIFS over metal studs and exterior gypsum board, the outside of the facility is segmented into distinct elements. “The exterior low-rise design includes a ‘wainscot’ of a deep red wall color that is scored in a diamond-pattern grid and highlighted with exterior face lights,” says Steve Peck, one of the key architects on the project and a senior associate at Klai Juba. “The main façade is also highlighted with metal grillwork and amber backlighting and the upper wall is capped with a down-lit cove parapet that is slightly angled. The red and amber façade is complemented by red glass at the entries.”
These patterns and materials generally repeat on the porte cochere but with an added touch. “We finished the porte cochere with EIFS, including massing blocks that tie back to the casino building and also offer a strong visual anchor as well as texture to the exterior. At the porte cochere, we also needed that ‘wow’ factor and added an integral pylon sign with LED display,” says Peck. This display, along with the glowing LED perimeter lighting, adds life and color to the casino at night.

Inside the casino, the horizontal lines and linear layout continue with modern sensibilities. “The casino and porte cochere are both ‘capped’ with higher ceilings, which expose some structure and frame the clerestory windows,” Klai explains.

“The remaining perimeter casino ceiling steps down to more traditional ceiling heights but maintains its contemporary and high-quality look with its diagonal diamond ‘lace’ ceiling,” adds Peck.  ­
And that lace ceiling is a sight to behold. With its pale, elongated diamond plaster shapes connected end to end, a honeycomb effect appears overhead, interrupted only by beautiful bronze lanterns. Ann Fleming, a principal and owner at Cleo Design, describes these light fixtures as “perfectly stacked metal boxes that create an almost organic stalactite structure, which are interior lit, allowing light to escape only through thousands of pierced holes.”

But perhaps the highlight of the casino’s interior surrounds the Center Bar and the architectural skylight and clearstory above it. “At the heart of the casino—where you can see and be seen—is the Center Bar,” says Fleming. “Directly above it and to each side is an amazing display of daylighting through the architectural skylight and clearstory. This feature changes as the day turns to night and creates impact and vibe as you enter.”

The Center Bar also provides a 360-degree view of the casino from its high-energy lounge seating, anchored by an incredibly tall organic sculpture at its core. “The serpentine forms that form the organic center structure of the bar stretch to the ceiling and are home to a variety of visual monitors placed amongst its arms,” explains Ken Kulas, another principal and owner of Cleo Design. “Blasted by high-intensity color light fixtures that ungulate with the rhythm of live music, the forms create a beautiful visual background from almost anywhere in the casino.”

The Center BarAdding to the visual excitement of the Center Bar’s central sculpture are the surrounding skylights. “More and more often the visions of the dark gaming hall void of clocks and filled with smoke are becoming relics of the past,” says Kulas. “Indiana Live! Casino allows the sunlight to reach into the casino and the guests to gaze back at the changing sky. The play of light allows for subtle changes throughout the day to the colorful casino interiors. As the daylight fades, the space becomes alive with a sequenced color show provided by state-of-the-art theatrical lighting systems incorporated in the Center Bar and the casino columns.”

While this new casino may not float on waves, it certainly has generated waves of patrons from within the community. Employing more than 400 people and projected to generate $74 million dollars for the state and local communities in its first year of operation, the new Indiana Live! Casino is certainly alive with design and a host of exciting gaming action.

Owner:     Indianapolis Downs LLC
Developer:     The Cordish Company
General Manager:     Richard Kline
Operator:     The Cordish Company
Architect:     Klai Juba Architects in conjunction with local architect Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects
Interior Design:     Cleo Design for all interior design except Live! Market, which was designed by Westar Architects
Contractor:     F. A. Wilhelm Construction
Civil Engineer:     Woolpert
Structural Engineer:     Fink, Roberts & Petrie
MEP Engineer:     Giovanetti Shulman Associates
Food Service Design:     JEM Associates
Lighting Design:     The Ruzika Company
Elevator Consultant:     HKA
Life Safety Consultant:     Ralph Gerdes Consultants
Specifications:    Spectra Consulting