Gamblers finally got a glimpse of the Kansas Star’s permanent casino Wednesday.
Some entered the building and gaped at the new surroundings. Others immediately went in search of their favorite slot machines.
“Nice. Nice,” said Jim McDaniel of Wichita, who arrived early to play poker. “I always judge a casino by how comfortable it makes me feel, and I got a comfort level coming in here.”
“So far, it’s OK,” said Delores Roehrman of Wichita, who came with her husband, Richard. “Trying to find your favorite machines is difficult, not knowing the way it’s set up.”
After operating in a temporary arena setting since it opened a year ago, the Kansas Star unveiled about half of its new permanent casino a little after 8 a.m. The new casino has just under 90,000 square feet of gaming space, and is about 80 percent larger than the temporary casino.
Customers were greeted by 1,019 slot machines, 35 gaming tables, 10 poker tables in a new poker room, and three of the five restaurants planned for the facility.
“This is a very exciting day,” said Scott Cooper, general manager. “It’s taken a lot of hard work by our team members and a lot of patience from our customers because we’ve been under construction for a year.”
The Kansas Star had closed its temporary facility for two days so workers could move the slot machines and table games from the arena into the new building. Crews will continue to move machines and tables into the new casino, leading up to a full gaming floor opening on Dec. 21.
When finished, the Kansas Star will have 1,829 slot machines and 45 table games.
With the recently opened, 150-room Hampton Inn & Suites next door, the Kansas Star can begin fulfilling its original mission as a regional destination, Cooper said.
The arena that housed the temporary casino will be remodeled for concerts, sporting events, trade shows and equestrian events. Some events will begin in June or July, Cooper said. Equestrian shows will start in 2015.
Elaine Kendrick of Wichita, who won a $1,200 jackpot in the temporary casino, approved of the new one.
“More machines, a lot of different machines. I like it out here,” she said.
Orange ceiling lights glow in the new building, creating a sunset effect. White lights tucked among dark wood ceiling beams give an impression of sunlight peeking through from above.
A mural by Newton artist Phil Epp – showing horses galloping across the prairie under a blue sky chased by a rain cloud – hangs above the cashier windows.
New food amenities include the 250-seat Kitchen Buffet, where chefs cook in front of diners; An Pho, a noodle bar that serves Asian-inspired dishes; and the Shark Bar, which offers burgers and pizza.
Panini Jo’s deli, the only food venue that will be carried over from the temporary casino, and the Woodfire Grille steakhouse will open on Dec. 21.
The new casino also includes the Cottonwood Bar, which features segments of trees that were removed from the site when construction. Strips of cottonwood bark are suspended from the bar’s ceiling.
“It’s nice. I like it,” said Ed Marceau of Wichita, who gambled once a week at the slots in the temporary casino. “More room. Wide open.”
Among the first people in the door at Wednesday’s opening were a group of Mulvane residents who had campaigned for the casino for years. One of them, Linda Parker, said the opening culminated years of hard work to get the casino in Mulvane.
“We’re so excited, we can’t even explain how excited we are,” she said. “This has been a long road.”