CLOVERDALE — The doors of Elements Casino will officially open Thursday (Dec. 17), bringing live entertainment, additional dining options and an “enhanced gaming mix” to the property, formerly known as Fraser Downs Racetrack Casino.
The renovated and rebranded casino will open to the general public at 8 p.m. Thursday, following a two-hour VIP party.
This week, work crews wired signs and light fixtures, painted some walls, loaded new slot machines into the building and completed other final touches prior to the grand opening.
Over the past six months, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation spent close to $11 million to refurbish the 56,000-square-foot property, which first opened 40 years ago.
“We want to be a destination venue, not just for Surrey but for our whole trade area,” said Micahel Kim, the casino’s director of operations, as he gave the Now a preview tour of the facility on Monday (Dec. 14).
“Adding these amenities is going to be big for us,” he added. “We wanted to up our game, for sure, because in our research, that’s what people wanted here.”
PICTURED: Michael Kim, director of operations of Elements Casino in Cloverdale.
The new live-entertainment venue, called Escape, has room for 300 patrons in the space, formerly the multi-tiered clubhouse area. The Escape stage, positioned to project sound away from the casino floor, will feature live bands and other performers two or three nights a week. Brit-pop tribute band Atlantic Crossing is featured on opening weekend (Dec. 17-19), followed by Metro Sonix, Emily Chambers & Co., All About Jack, March Hare, Bang!, The New Shackletons and others in the weeks to come.
In a first for the new space, a Christmas party for 200 was held at Escape last weekend.
“We know the market is looking for a space this size, a venue that can accommodate up to 300 people,” Kim said. “It can be used for a variety of events and gatherings, including weddings.”
Solo musicians will also be booked to perform on a small stage at the adjacent Molson Canadian Lounge, which overlooks rows of slot machines positioned in the atrium of the casino’s main entrance, off 60th Avenue.
“This will be a place to unwind after work or catch a game on TV, and it’ll seat about 60 people in here,” Kim said of the beer company-branded bar, where patrons will also have a view of the harness racing outside, from fall to spring.
Also located near the entrance is the Diamond Buffet, billed as “the only seven-day-a-week buffet in town,” with room for 150 people for brunch, lunch and dinner.
The buffet, along with other dining spots at Elements, is overseen by the casino’s new executive chef, Raymond Mah.
In the main casino room, a new quick-service restaurant – or “QSR,” in casino lingo – called Foodies will serve grab-and-go items such as burgers, sandwiches and the like.
Nearby, a dozen more table games will be in operation, bringing the total number to 24.
“We have old favourites like Blackjack, Roulette, Four Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’em,” Kim noted, “but we will be adding a second Roulette, Double Deck Blackjack, Pai Gow and, most importantly, Squeeze Baccarat in a semi-private area.”
On the ceiling above slot machines near Foodies, new LED lighting will change colours to suit a mood or special event.
“When the Canucks play, for example, we can change those lights to blue and green if we want,” said Kim, a Maple Leafs fan who grew up in London, Ontario.
PICTURED: Slot machines are loaded into the new Elements Casino on Monday (Dec. 14).
The overall concept of Elements is for the facility to “serve as the entertainment destination of choice for many entertainment seekers as the new venue offers exciting gaming, racing, entertainment and dining options accompanied by unrivaled personal service,” according to a fact sheet given to the media.
The casino name was chosen with the help of focus groups and a branding agency.
“We called it Elements because we are going to have so many new elements in here,” Kim said. “Whether you’re going out with a group of two or 10, we now have something that caters to what you’re looking for.”
As in other casinos, feng shui – the Chinese practice of harmonizing an architectural environment – is in play at Elements.
“We added some colours and other elements in here, for feng shui approval,” Kim revealed. “Tales and locations, the number of people, the timing, everything was taken into consideration. We’re saying that the grand opening is at 8 o’clock on Thursday but we’re actually planning to open the doors at 8:08, because eight is a lucky number.”
Previously, in Coquitlam, Kim helped rebrand Great Canadian’s Boulevard casino as a Hard Rock property. On opening night in December 2013, party-goers were hit by a heavy snow storm.
In Cloverdale on Thursday, the forecast calls for light rain and cold temperatures –but no snow.
“Just to be sure,” Kim said with a laugh, “we booked a snow-removal company last August.”