Miami Valley Gaming Racetrack & Casino, Lebanon, Ohio
Take a pre-engineered metal building and bring the whole project to completion in a third of the budgeted time and half the cost—that’s a cause for celebration. But the Miami Valley Gaming Racetrack & Casino, developed on 130 acres in Lebanon, Ohio, while located in a simple square building, gives off vibes of something rich and exciting, but also comfortable, so that people are starting to identify it as their “hometown” casino.
The racino, owned by Delaware North Companies and Churchill Downs Inc., opened in December 2020. It offers harness racing with 1,600 video lottery terminals (VLTs) and no tables, with room for up to 2,800 VLTs. It is one of seven racinos in Ohio.
“The exciting thing about this project is that from approval to design to development took 13 months,” says Nick Schoenfeldt, vice president, principal and senior project manager for Thalden Boyd Emery Architects. “We built on a very tight budget and brought it in $6 million under budget.”
It is a simple building—a large square with appendages—but a lot has been done with it. Guests arrive in a grand lobby with split-face marble on the walls. Cars can be brought directly into the lobby for giveaways or display. Patrons are immediately immersed in an environment of richness. “Everything that people touch is real: marble, real stone, wood, and reclaimed barn wood in some of the restaurants,” Schoenfeldt says. “It’s become the place that people identify as their hometown casino.
“It wasn’t under-designed or over-designed,” he says. “People feel comfortable with it. It has the right mix of pattern and color and it feels cohesive.”
The interior and exterior lighting for this large atrium is provided by programmable color changing LEDs. This provides a lot of variation in the lighting and a lot of touch points. It brings the building to life at night. Video boards along walkways leading to the entrance inform guests what is going on inside.
The floor layout is very simple, creating a restaurant-row effect for the fine dining area, buffet area, sports bar, casual dining area and coffee bar. The gaming floor in the shape of an L allows for expansion.
Although many casinos are trending away from catering to smokers, the Miami was designed with an outdoor smoking area served by lottery terminals.
It came in under budget and way ahead of schedule because everybody worked from the same page. “All three of us, including the construction manager, worked with the goal of getting the property open,” says Schoenfeldt. “It was a synthesis of all of the groups. It was integrated project delivery without the contractual operations. We were all on the same page from the first moment.
“Bill Farish, chairman of Churchill Downs, has said, ‘Wow, this is our finest facility!’ That’s something we love to hear.”