A first look inside the finished Horseshoe Casino Cleveland

CLEVELAND - More than 15 months after casino and city leaders gathered on a cold February morning inside the dusty, vacant, shell of the former Higbee Building to announce their plans for the new Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, this place, that once was synonymous with class and elegance, is bathed in glory again.

Casino officials Wednesday allowed for the first time a look inside the completed, four-story, 300,000 square foot casino. From the chandeliers to the deep dark woodwork to the iconic brass doorways, the Horseshoe blends the sophisticated art deco style of the old Higbees Department Store with the modern bells and whistles of 21st century casino gaming.

Rock Gaming principals Nathan Forbes and Jeffrey Cohen led the project's design and construction team.

"We were passionate about preserving and enhancing the original Neoclassical and Art Deco style of this building inside and out," said Forbes.

"From Higbee's entrances to its interior structural and decorative details, we challenged ourselves to maintain the timeless features of the building while completely reinventing its use," he said.

Getting to this point wasn't easy.

"Decorative details could only be contemplated after major systems and utilities inside the building were considered and planned to support Higbee's new 24-7 use," Cohen said.

One of the most challenging tasks the team addressed was converting the building from a retail space to an entertainment and public assembly structure, defined as a venue for very large groups moving about at the same time. This required the team to completely overhaul exit passages and install new stairs, two elevators, and two sets of escalators to provide patrons with easy access among the casino's four floors.

In addition, the casino floors were reinforced to support heavy gaming equipment, including hundreds of slot machines weighing up to 600 pounds each. Heating and cooling systems were also expanded to increase guest comfort, and gaming industry technology experts were involved early on to ensure that the interior fit-out design could meet the stringent security and communications requirements of a modern casino.

Raised floors were installed to route and protect miles of data and power cables under the gaming floor, while also offering a means to protect the building's original marble floors when repositioning gaming equipment. In the ceiling, experts also provided recommendations for unique casino communication and security standards that were contemplated as part of the master redesign.

It is the outside of the casino that guests will first see and great steps were taken to make sure there is a wow factor.  

"With the addition of a few exterior enhancements, Higbee's facelift has transformed her tired look into an entertainment destination," Forbes said.

The team revived the outside of the building by illuminating its 12-story facade to highlight limestone cornices and details. They also added new signage, branded awnings, and hung new flags where the department store had once done the same.

Level 1 of the casino, which is actually the floor below ground, features the 400-seat, seven station buffet restaurant known as The Spread which offers a high end option for those who enjoy a variety of food ready to eat.

Level 2, which is the street level, is how most will enter the casino either off Prospect Avenue, Public Square or Terminal Tower. This features a large number of the casino's 2,100 slot machines as well as table games and a center bar that backs up to the Ontario Street side of the floor. The curtains, light enough to allow for the daylight to shine in but thick enough to make it impossible to pick out the faces of those inside.

Level 3 is where you'll find the casino's food court featuring Cleveland's own celebrity chef Michael Symon's highly successful B Spot, eastside deli favorite Corky & Lenny's and the latest addition, Chef Rocco Whalen's Rosie & Rocco's, which will feature Italian with an emphasis on pizza, meatballs and salads.

This level also features the remainder of the 2,100 slots and a fair number of the 63 table games.

Level 4 is home to the exclusive 30 table World Series of Poker room as well as the casino's corporate offices.

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