As it prepares for its 10th anniversary, Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel will be undergoing a series of renovations.
The work is likely to exceed $10 million, with the bulk (an estimated $8.5 million) being spent on a makeover of the 400-seat Thunder Falls Buffet.
Work will start this fall and is scheduled to be completed by late December, when the casino officially marks its 10th anniversary.
The renovation comes as Seneca Gaming Corp. is finishing a 200-room expansion of Seneca Allegany Casino and Hotel in Salamanca and is about to begin construction of the $130 million permanent Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino in downtown Buffalo.
"This is a logical progression," said Jim Wise, Seneca Gaming senior vice president of marketing. "Niagara Falls is our landmark and flagship property. It is receiving its proper due from the corporation."
One of the most visible parts of the renovation work is the construction of a 108-foot wide by 20-foot-tall high-definition LED sign on top of the casino that's slated to make its debut on July 2. Seneca Gaming invested $1.9 million in building out the sign.
This fall, a series of renovations will begin inside the casino. Chief among them will be the closing and rebuilding of the Thunder Falls Buffet. The restaurant is slated to close on Oct. 28 and will reopen around Christmas with a new look and possibly a new name. Seating capacity will be increased to 440.
Wise admits that closing the buffet was as long as six weeks is an expensive investment. Some buffet-style meals may be served in the Seneca Events Center, if it is not previously booked. Other restaurants in the casino will also be used to pick up the slack.
Renovating the buffet, however, was a top priority.
"We are talking about a major transformation," Wise said. "The construction price tag should be a big indicator. We aren't talking about putting on a new coat of paint and adding a couple of new seats and pizza ovens. I'll admit there's never a good time to close the buffet. But, we have to do it at some point if we want it ready by Christmas and New Year's."
The work, designed by New Jersey-based Sosh Architects and overseen by Seneca Construction Management Co., includes creating a new entranceway that brings the buffet closer to the casino's main gaming hall. Currently, the entranceway is down a hallway and hidden from the casino floor.
The buffet will take a European style with more on-site exhibition cooking stations by the restaurant's culinary staff.
Also on tap for this fall is a makeover of the exclusive Chairman's Lounge to allow for a larger bar and upgraded kitchen and food offerings. That work will start just after the Labor Day weekend and will take anywhere from six weeks to eight weeks to complete.
The revamped lounge will cut slightly into the casino's VIP high-end gaming room. That room will not lose any table or gaming space.
The third phase includes renovations of the center suites in the casino's 26-story hotel tower. The bulk of the hotel's 604 rooms and suites were renovated last year. The center-suites makeover is the last part of that renovation.
A construction time ine for the center suites is still being determined, Wise said.
Wise said other renovations are likely, but no determination has been made for when those will take place.
"These projects alone are enough to keep us more than busy well into the fall and winter," Wise said.