Youthful ‘Spirit’ at Harrah's Rincon Casino

November 07, 2003

Owned by the Rincon San Luiseño Band of Mission Indians and managed by Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort in San Diego, which opened in August 2002, has been an unquestionable success.

With 1,300 jobs filled and significant revenue generation, the impact on the local economy has been significant. Yet, complacency can often spell doom in the highly competitive entertainment industry, so Harrah’s embarked on a multi-million dollar expansion aimed at increasing the number of younger visitors.

Harrah’s recognized that some of their customers were looking for more of a cutting edge, entertainment-focused venue. The intent of the expansion was twofold, to maintain the same atmosphere that has made Rincon so popular with existing customers while adding new and exciting elements that attract a more youthful customer.

Rincon Casino is southern California’s first Las Vegas-style casino, and Harrah’s 26th grand opening in the United States. In celebration of its one-year anniversary, the casino completed a 26,250 sq. ft. gaming, dining and entertainment extension finished this past July.

The expansion incorporated a variety of innovative, hi-tech features, among them color changing lighting environments that allow Harrah’s to transform the ambiance of the space as required, in order to spice up an event or to suit a particular crowd’s tastes.

Highlights of the expansion included additional slot machines and gaming tables, a 900-seat Pavilion with meeting rooms, a Corner Grill restaurant and a high-action lounge area called Spirits.

Paul Steelman Design
Paul Steelman Design Group, Inc. (PSDG) of Las Vegas designed the original hotel/casino, as well as the expansion. Project designer for the expansion was Tim Tremaine of PSDG. Lighting Designer Jon Champelli was part of the design team at PSDG that was tasked with creating the exciting visual atmosphere for the Spirits Lounge and its unique liquor display.

The display is made up of a series of vertical metallic poles running circular around the bar with small pedestals for placement of each liquor bottle. Jon sought a dynamic color changing lighting solution. He comments, “The Tribe and Harrah’s wanted the space to appeal to a younger demographic by giving it a youthful, exciting feel so we decided to illuminate the bar through color change. The original inspiration for lighting the bar actually came from a Lenny Kravitz video “Are You Gonna Go My Way”. If you’ve seen the video it features a circular room with a lot of individually controlled lights. That’s the look we were going for so we were looking for affordable lights that were slick, metallic looking and color changing and the Alien 05 foot the bill.” Jon collaborated on the expansion design with project designer Tim Tremaine.

Alien 05
Jon took 72 Martin Architectural Alien 05 Eyeballs and recessed them in the circular sloped ceiling that hugs the bar. Set in a 180-degree arc around the bar in 4 rows of 18 Aliens each, the recessed luminaires provide multi-directional waves of even color wash - top to bottom, bottom to top, left to right, etc. - across the bottle display.

“The original design included 78 Aliens but we had to make a few adjustments,” Jon comments. “The Aliens are nice and easy to work with. I loved the easy aiming and variable beam spread. It made it a lot easier as I was up there on the scaffolding.” In the future, the intention is for a full 360-degree bar, which Jon says will double the amount of Aliens.

One of Martin’s West Coast office technicians, Bob Chamberlain, remained on site during the installation. “The support was excellent,” commented Jon. “It was very nice to have Bob around for technical support during the installation phase. He made sure everything was working as it should which was a big help.” Bob also worked closely with the control system designer and supplier Marty Wickman of CW Productions and lighting programmer Ted Mizrahi whose patience and expertise were much appreciated.

Layered lighting
Jon worked with the architectural space, a ceiling full of sculptural details and multiple soffits, to achieve the desired look. The entire bar area is actually dressed in three layers of lighting. The first layer encompasses LED lighting used to illuminate the curved front face soffit, with Spirits logo projection. The second layer is the Alien color change while 18 vertical rows of LED lighting, surrounding the interior column at the center of the bar, act as the third layer.

“There are two programs,” Jon explains, “one in which both the Aliens and LED fixtures color change every couple of minutes, and a second program where the Aliens run a dimmer, dark blue program while the LED fixtures take over and color change. The lighting is never really static. The dynamic, moving patterns created by the Aliens and the LED lights change every couple of minutes, but they are constantly moving.”

Also incorporated into the space is more LED color changing lighting located opposite the Spirits Lounge in the Corner Grill restaurant. The LED lights are programmed to work together with the rest of the lighting, creating a colorful mood in the entire area. Another important visual element in the area are the multiple plasma and large screen TVs, which show everything from sporting events and music videos to high-tech graphic images.

Installed in mid summer 2003, the technology incorporated into the new areas provides the ability to program the mood through the strategic use of sight, sound and motion, allowing the client the flexibility to appeal to their traditional customer base, as well as a decidedly younger audience.

Architecture and Interior Design: Paul Steelman Design Group, Inc.
Architectural Designer (casino expansion): Tim Tremaine
Lighting Designer: Jon Champelli
Senior Lighting Designer: David Tibbitts
Lighting Programmer: Ted Mizrahi
Control system design and supply: Marty Wickman, CW Productions

Paul Steelman Design Team for the Rincon Expansion
Project Designer: Tim Tremaine
Interior Designer: Dana Gilbert
Project Director: Mark Stella
Project Architect: Ethan Nelson
Lighting Designer: Jon Champelli