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Team Collaboration Achieves Schedule Milestones for Anticipated Four Winds Casino in South Bend

Photo by HBG Design

Photo by HBG Design

From the inside out, the new Four Winds Casino in South Bend, Indiana, reflects the Four Winds brand and pays tribute to the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. Maintaining the Four Winds Casino brand was very important to the design of this project and incorporating design elements relating to the South Bend market. An earth tone palette and cultural symbolism are incorporated into the facilities from the entryway’s weaved and ribbon-like design in the rotunda to the hearth room representing the Band’s heritage as “keepers of fire.”

“The Pokagon call South Bend ‘ribbon town,’” said Nathan Peak, AIA, Lead Architectural Designer and Principal at HBG Design. “Known for arts and crafts, tribal symbolism is connected to unique patterns and artwork as well as the location’s origins along the river and water.”

The Pokagon Gaming Authority chose F.A. Wilhelm Construction as construction manager for their first Four Winds Casino in Indiana. This full-service gaming venue will feature 1,800 electronic gaming machines, three bars, and six restaurants including the signature Copper Rock Steakhouse. Strategically creating a destination of options, this casino offers more private dining than in each of the other three Four Winds properties.

Preplanning through preconstruction from the early phases of development enabled the team to determine optimal timing for mobilization. Jeff Clay, Senior Vice President of Development for Four Winds, said the planning process for a new casino can be a long and complex process. He said Four Winds worked for five years to bring this facility to South Bend.

“We used that time wisely,” Clay said. “Wilhelm stepped up with its preconstruction team, to pre-order materials so everything was set, waiting for the flag to drop. When it did, we were ready and we’ve been flying ever since.”

Wilhelm’s Contract Manager Mitch Davison enjoyed working through the preconstruction process and seeing the plan come together.

“We all worked together for two or three months before the project started and had a good plan looking down the road and anticipated challenges before they became problems,” Davison said. “Being proactive was the key to staying on schedule.”

Schedule continues to be a driving force behind construction to prepare for the grand opening in early 2018. Achieving the expedited timeframe Mike Morgan, Kramer Management Group and Owner’s Representative for the Pokagon Gaming Authority, attributes it to Wilhelm’s ability to effectively manage the schedule.

“Wilhelm knows how to manage the schedule,” Morgan said. “We have a lot of quick collaboration. These are the things that keep the job going.” Davison echoes these statements attributing schedule achievements to a solution-focused mindset.

“The Pokagon Gaming Authority and Four Winds were open to our solutions to expedite the schedule because they were committed to opening the project as soon as possible,” Davison said. “We were given the decision-making authority to achieve that goal considering what was best for the project and the budget.”

In Davison’s 27 years in the industry, he said this was the ‘smallest, big jobsite’ he has encountered because not much of the 166-acre site was initially usable as construction began in Indiana’s coldest and wettest months. This challenged the project team as weather changed from snow to rain continuously changing site conditions. A considerable amount of soil remediation was necessary to ensure the site was stabilized to begin groundwork at that time of year.

When an expansive parking structure was added to the project, logistical challenges were overcome by quickly adjusting the overall site logistics plan and constructing certain areas ahead of schedule. In addition, close coordination with HBG Design and preplanning enables the simultaneous completion of both the parking structure and the casino.

“It’s very aggressive to design and build a 3,000-car parking garage, with a custom skin, in only 12 months. That is typically unheard of,” Paul Bell, AIA, Project Manager and Principal at HBG Design. “[Wilhelm] had an aggressive schedule; our design team understood that. We have developed a good partnership working through the needs of this aggressive schedule.”

As milestones are achieved on this fast-tracked schedule, the team is getting excited about the new venue to open. Mike Kerr, Wilhelm Operations Manager, is proud of many things on this project including the architectural beauty, the quality of work and the jobs it is creating for both tribal members and the South Bend community.

“I’m most proud of the number of people the project has employed and the relationships we have made with Pokagon Band members,” Kerr said.

Forty-three tribal members or their spouses have been engaged in this project through the Tribal Preference Program which provides the tribal community with first-preference for open positions on the project. Currently 420 people are onsite working 12-hour days, six days a week to ensure the casino opens on January 16, according to a Four Winds press release. Opening this casino creates nearly 1,200 new jobs for the South Bend community.

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