Chicago’s planned Bally’s River North casino and hotel complex has received a significant design makeover, shifting from the original Vegas-esque style to a more restrained aesthetic. This transformation follows months of biweekly meetings involving Maurice Cox, the Department of Planning Commissioner, casino officials, stakeholders, and others.
A Distinctly Architectural Marvel
The newly released renderings, first made available to the Chicago Sun-Times, depict a revamped look for the $1.7 billion initial phase of the complex by Bally’s. This update, however, does not change the layout of the project approved by the city last year. Key features include a 3,000-seat theatre at the south end, casino spaces, restaurants and retail, and a curved, glass-fronted hotel tower occupying the northern end of the site.
Unlike the previous design, the 1.4 million square foot casino and theatre appear less glassy, especially above the first floor. Instead, the design now incorporates expanses of light-coloured, corrugated-looking façade material facing the river. Cox described the aim of the modifications as creating a “memorable architectural moment” out of what could have been a nondescript box-like structure.
In tribute to the city’s history, the redesigned façade intends to evoke the industrial language of the Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center printing plant. This building will be demolished to make way for the casino, with printing operations moving from the site next year.
A Balanced Urban Entertainment Hub
The revised design downplays the casino element, emphasizing that the complex offers various amenities and attractions that can be enjoyed without casino visitation. “Our thought is we have to bring Chicagoans to this site, whether they gamble or not,” Cox noted.
Despite the aesthetic changes, the project’s scale and location remain contentious. The complex is anticipated to attract large crowds looking to dine, gamble, and be entertained. This massive commercial venture must cater to these demands while balancing the architectural identity of the city.
The redesign has been successful in toning down the casino’s appearance to prevent it from overshadowing the planned residential phase to the west. Yet, it has also rendered the complex more anonymous, raising the question of how to design a casino in a city renowned for its architecture.
Implications for the iGaming Industry
- Architectural Design: The Bally’s River North project underlines the importance of an aesthetic that blends into the city’s fabric rather than standing out. This approach encourages a more integrated and less invasive presence in the urban landscape.
- Diversified Entertainment: The project demonstrates the potential of a casino complex as a multifaceted entertainment hub. It signifies a shift from solely focusing on gambling activities towards providing a more diverse range of attractions.
- Societal Acceptance: Finally, the project indicates the need to win societal approval. By considering the needs of non-gamblers, this development attempts to foster a wider acceptance among the local community, which could set a precedent for future iGaming establishments in urban environments.