Toledo’s Taste of Hollywood

Walking through the doors of Hollywood Casino Toledo, guests step back in time. Elegant chandeliers, art deco columns and classic movie posters from the Golden Age of Hollywood offer a glimpse of the glamorous life—the life guests get to live while they’re at Toledo’s new Hollywood Casino.

Designed by Urban Design Group (UDG) and owned by Penn National Gaming, the property is Ohio’s second casino. The two-level low-rise building located off Interstate 75 opened May 29 and has been making “Hollywood dreams come to life” ever since, says Donald Buenger, AIA, LEED AP and principal at UDG.

The $310 million project brings glamorous Hollywood dreams to the Midwest with the Hollywood Casino brand. Strongly associated with the Art Deco period, the Hollywood Casino brand is inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood. “Toledo also has a strong art deco past,” Buenger said. “Much of it is now gone, but enough remains for inspiration. Though not directly derived from a specific building in Toledo, the design is a celebratory example of Toledo as it was during the Golden Age of Hollywood.”

Art Deco Design
The exterior walls of the building are veneered with granite panels, brick, faux stone units and faux stucco. Custom art deco-style sculptures flank the main porte cochere entry. The porte cochere is intended to be an introduction to the excitement of the interior spaces designed by Genesis Associates. “The angled center ceiling treatment combined with the glass clerestory and the paving pattern give movement and direction to the arrival experience, focusing your attention toward the main entry,” Buenger explained. The finishes of the glass tile coffers and the polished stone base for the columns, with the metallic finish for the central crenellated ceiling element and column wraps, all tie into the other elements on the façade. Further enticing patrons, a skylight separation between the free-standing porte cochere and the casino building provides dramatic views of the signature center finial pilaster.

Feature pilasters with special decorative lighting, granite panels and decorative glass mosaic tiles provide drama at the east front of the building along Interstate 75. A pair of sculpture niches and large custom-designed cast Scene, Hollywood Casino Toledo’s ultra lounge.
Scene, Hollywood Casino Toledo’s ultra lounge.
grilles, inspired by the lobby grilles of art deco public buildings, accent the entry façade. A tiara of custom lights brought to the ground by light shields running vertically within the fluted exterior piers enforces the art deco design, while adding a sense of movement and rhythm across the façade. “Lighting features were distributed to create a strong evening identity; the building’s signature unfolds in greater detail and refinement to climax at the porte cochere,” Buenger said.

Inside, the casino area pays tribute to the glory days of Hollywood with its art deco theme. The design also looks to the future, with a focus on integrating multi-media into the casino experience. Static and electronic billboards and projected images deliver the latest mass media content to patrons. “The energy is responsive to the fast-paced culture of today,” Buenger added. “From the beginning of the design process, UDG and Genesis Associates coordinated the interior and exterior designs to give the same message.”

Much of the interior theme is achieved with highly articulated cast decorative pilasters and other cast ornamentation. “The general casino area ceiling is left open to promote the feel of a Hollywood back-lot production area,” Buenger said. Vintage Hollywood memorabilia and classic black-and-white nostalgic photographs complete the Hollywood feel of the facility. Focal points of the casino are “Scene” (the center ultra lounge) and an entertainment lounge, which use cutting-edge audio/video projection systems on floating glass walls. The casino houses a total of five dining/entertainment venues, including a 260-seat buffet, 158-seat steakhouse, two lounges (including Scene) and a walk-up grille.

Conscious Design
Classic movie posters decorate the cage and the gaming floor.
Classic movie posters decorate the cage and the gaming floor.
Extensive use of recycled, regional and low-emitting materials throughout the casino adheres to LEED guidelines. The project is slated to be LEED Silver certified, pending final U.S. Green Building Council approval. Green practices were integral to both the design and construction processes, Buenger says. More than 9,100 tons of recycled construction waste was diverted from landfills during the project. Due to the increased building envelope efficiency and insulation, the casino is estimated to have building energy savings of more than 5 million kilowatt hours per year and water use reduction of more than 1.891 million gallons per year.

And, unlike casinos in the Golden Age of Hollywood, the building is smoke-free. However, Buenger says, since smoking remains critical to the economic performance of a casino, and as a preference for many gaming patrons, exterior smoking porches are adjacent to the gaming floor.

Toledo’s Economic Engine
With its classic appeal, Hollywood Casino Toledo has quickly established itself as an economic engine for Toledo and northwest Ohio. “More than 2,100 construction jobs were generated during the property’s development, and the casino employs more than 1,300 team members—all in a region where unemployment was as high as 15 percent just two years ago,” said Richard St. Jean, vice president and general manager of Hollywood Casino Toledo. In addition to the $50 million license fee to the state of Ohio, Hollywood is expected to generate $65 million in annual recurring taxes and attract more than 2.8 million guests a year, St. Jean says.

The casino also offers patrons the simple luxury of options. “Until the recent opening of Hollywood Casino Toledo, northwest Ohio was an underserved casino market,” St. Jean explained. Gaming options for players in the region, which includes those living in southern Michigan and northeast Indiana, were limited to casino properties that were anywhere from one to three hours away. “The choices included driving into downtown Detroit, crossing the border into Canada or making the trek to Indianapolis,” St. Jean said. “Hollywood Casino Toledo enjoys an easily accessible and prominent location that is visible to those driving on I-75, the major interstate that extends north into Michigan and south along the Ohio-Indiana border.”

More than 500,000 guests have visited Hollywood Toledo in the first four weeks of operation, and so far, patrons have been wowed by the glitz and glamour. “We’ve received great reviews from customers,” St. Jean said. “Everyone appreciates the Las Vegas-like format of Hollywood Toledo, where all gaming is on a single level with restaurants, eateries and lounges located directly on the casino floor.” Guests used to traveling to the Detroit casinos in particular have remarked that they like the hassle-free interstate travel and free parking offered at the casino. St. Jean notes that the casino is attracting a lot of players from communities south of Detroit in places like Monroe, Mich., and even the Ann Arbor, Mich., market.

In addition to driving the economic engine of Toledo, the casino has also made significant contributions to charitable organizations in northwest Ohio. At the grand opening, a $50,000 check was presented to both the Boys and Girls Club of Toledo and the Greater Toledo YMCA. The casino has also funded a number of public safety initiatives, including a new canine unit for the local police force.

Key Players
Owner: Penn National Gaming
Operator: Penn National Gaming
Architect: Urban Design Group
Interior Designer: Genesis Associates
Contractor: Rudolph/Libbe (Construction Manager)
Structural Engineer Casino: Gregory P. Luth & Associates, Inc.
Structural Engineer Parking Deck: Laurene, Rickher & Sorrell PC