For the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) tribe, fire has long been a dominant factor. After all, the tribe’s name is traditionally the “keepers of the fire.” Now the FireKeepers Casino, located off of I-94 in Battle Creek, Mich., is forging a new tradition on what was historically used as farmland by the tribe. The FireKeepers Casino features Las Vegas-style gaming, with 2,600 slot machines, 78 table games and 20 poker tables, and boasts five restaurants, including a fine dining signature restaurant, buffet and 24-hour coffee shop. And while the new gaming property is definitely hot, the design was inspired by all four of Mother Nature’s elements.
“The beauty and natural elements intertwined throughout the history of the tribe allowed the design of this project to utilize the themes of fire, water, earth and wind throughout both interior and exterior elements,” said Joe Crowley, project manager for PEREZ APC, the architect for the FireKeepers Casino.
On the outside, site landscaping utilizes indigenous plant life, such as buffalo grass. A custom-made corten steel water-collecting bowl is gas lit, with a flame that uniquely welcomes casino guests as they approach the main entry.
The natural element theme continues throughout the casino. “The VIP lounge represents the Earth and offers a stone accented with warm colors and a fireplace,” Crowley explained. “Water is represented in other areas of the facility, but no more so than in the Nibi Restaurant. The custom-made curving glass waterwall and translucent ceiling with lighting above provide the effect of being surrounded by the water element.”
A guest favorite, the Kabaret Bar and Lounge is a focal point of the property. The lounge features translucent red panels and exquisite lighting and has a rolling ceiling above, representing the smoke of a fire. Specialty lighting is also meant to add a feeling of movement throughout the casino.
During the project’s development, the tribe provided designers with natural imagery and a detailed explanation of their rich history. Animals, such as the majestic eagle and the powerful bear, were implemented in several areas of the design. “The ‘Bird’s Beak’ porte cohere it is an excellent example of working those elements into the design,” Crowley commented. “Fire, earth, water and wind were also presented as important elements to the tribe’s culture, and we needed to integrate them into our design in order for this casino to represent the honor and identity of this great tribe.”
For snow accumulation on the building’s exterior, PEREZ used Arriscraft’s marble stone with a gray coloration for the base. “The texture and beauty of this material, along with its physical and material characteristics to resist water absorption, were reasons it was selected,” Crowley noted. “Building stone is used on the front façade, and the roofs are white, reflective to solar heat gains. All colors were selected to coordinate with one another, and all performance criteria from thermal, maintenance, longevity, initial costs and aesthetics were weighed in on the exterior to hone in on final selections. We reviewed almost every type of exterior material imaginable to come to these conclusions.”
On the main casino floor, mechanical HVAC columns are made of plastic and spandex. The colors and finishes throughout, including the glass stair between the escalators, the ceilings and the carpet patterns, were milled in Great Britain. “The really interesting and unique slot machines and the vestibule at night are literally spectacular, and you must see it after dusk,” noted Crowley.
Other design features of the FireKeepers Casino are the porte cochere’s masonry columns, the monument sign along the interstate, the gift shop’s exterior glass wall that has halos in it due to the reflectivity of light (the installers thought it would attract bees when they placed it), Nibi restaurant’s wood ceiling, orange glass boxes in Café 24/7, generous monitors, a skylight in the main entry, a video wall of monitors under the skylight, artwork, and spectacular lights.
PEREZ had nothing but praise for the NHBP tribe during construction of the casino. Crowley said: “The tribal influence and infusion provided added meaning and purpose to our efforts. The Aug. 1 celebration had tribal ceremonies, a torch run from the reservation to light up the fire feature, spiritually led talks and a congregation of the tribe’s community, allowing a selection of the key players throughout to be involved.”
Owner Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi
Developer Full House Resorts
General Manager R. Bruce McKee
Operator Full House Resorts
Architecture/Interior Design PEREZ APC
Contractor Clark Construction Company
Specialty Lighting Creative Lighting
Structural Richard Weingardt Consultants Inc.
Food and Beverage Design Theodore Barber & Co. Inc.
Casino Design Consultant Michael Demling Associates
Signage Douglas Group