Months of speculation about a multimillion dollar renovation and re-branding come to an end tomorrow, when a Cloverdale landmark holds its grand re-opening as Elements Casino.
The doors open at 8 p.m. Dec. 17 at the former Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino. Great Canadian Gaming Corp. has spent a reported $11 million making over the facility – about what it spent transforming its Coquitlam casino into the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, adding a range of new food and beverage options, live entertainment spaces, table games and new slot machines,
Live standardbred and simulcast horse racing will continue to be featured, maintaining a connection to the casino’s roots as a racetrack.
The casino has gone on a hiring spree, increasing its workforce by 25 per cent, boosting the number of employees from about 290 to 380 in order to position itself as a full service entertainment destination in Canada’s fast-growing city, hiring new food and beverage and casino staff, many of them from Surrey, general manager Michael Kim told the Reporter Monday during a preview tour for news media.
“It’s something we’re pretty proud of,” said Kim, who also oversaw the Hard Rock Casino rebranding before landing in Cloverdale in January 2015 to do the same thing here. “We want to make sure we hire locally and support the community.”
The casino and racetrack have remained open during renovations, meaning guests have seen some of the changes themselves, such as the updated main entrance and atrium on the main floor, where there are 150 added slots and a new Molson Canadian lounge area that will sell food from one of the four kitchens at Elements and provide a small entertainment space for performers.
To be unveiled is the Diamond Buffet, which will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and Foodies, an eatery on the upper casino floor offering casual fare.
Kim said the buffet is designed to be multi-purpose, serving hungry visitors and casino-goers along with privately-booked parties for special events of up to 150 people.
Upstairs, the Escape lounge is a similarly multi-purpose venue that seats 300 and will feature live entertainment on the weekends such as cover bands and other regional talent.
“We can have private functions, banquets and weddings here,” he said.
There are 68 new slot machines post-makeover, bringing the total at Elements to 537. New gaming options include a semi-private baccarat room, and more table games such as blackjack and roulette.
Figuring out what amenities to include, what cosmetic changes to make, and whether to change the name was an exhaustive exercise that involved internal focus groups and a lot of soul-searching.
Deciding what “elements” the rebranded casino should offer helped provide inspiration for the new name, said Kim.
There will be tears on opening night – the chance to build something new has been a welcome opportunity for administration and staff alike, said Kim.
Originally known as the Cloverdale Raceway, the racetrack has been a fixture of the local economy, employing hundreds and providing spinoff jobs such as feed sales, veterinary care, farrier services, and breeders.
“They live here. They’re huge supporters in the economy,” said Paul Orazietti, executive director of the Cloverdale BIA.
[Michael Kim, left, is general manager of Elements Casino – Jennifer Lang photo]
It’s the first major overhaul since the raceway re-opened in 2004 after a $40 million redevelopment as Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino.
The racetrack has since contributed more than $30 million to the city in gaming revenues, Orazietti said.
“It’s a giant juggernaut. It’s one of the biggest employers in Cloverdale,” he said. “The business community wants to support it.”
Orazietti said local reaction to the upgrade has been positive, although it remains to be seen how the changes will impact racing.
The provincial government allows the racing side of operations a proportionate share of slot machine revenue.
“There’s a need from the government to have a more definitive goal in how it wants to support harness racing,” he said. “Their future is in the hands of the government.”