USA, Oklahoma: Choctaw Casino & Resort Expansion
The latest project from JCJ Architecture—a world-class resort expansion designed for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. This project tells a poignant story about tribal self-sufficiency, a respectful integration of cultural values, and the elevation of the gaming industry.
Above left: A sweeping 30-foot staircase above the lobby bar is punctuated by a dramatic spiraling custom chandelier by Sapphire Manufacturing made of acrylic faceted beads, powder-coated steel top housing, aircraft cables, LED can lights, and LED globe lights. Right: Centered within the vast gaming floor, a dazzling 40-foot diameter canopy of steel and colored resin serves as a centerpiece. Photography by Garrett Rowland
The Choctaw Casino & Resort Expansion in Durant, Oklahoma brings a new kind of luxury to tribal gaming amidst increasingly sophisticated guest expectations, while integrating an authentic representation of Choctaw culture. Drawing upon a decade-long collaborative relationship, JCJ Architecture prioritized direct input from members of the Choctaw Nation throughout the design process.
In an accelerated 30-month timeline, JCJ Architecture completed a two million-square-foot expansion of Choctaw Casino & Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. Designed and built in collaboration with Tutor Perini Corporation, the expanded property centres around a 21-story, luxury Sky Hotel Tower that ascends from an expansive three acre resort pool and offers increased gaming and entertainment opportunities, amenities, restaurants, and a world-class, curated collection of Choctaw art. One of the largest federally recognised tribes, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is a tribe of artists, professionals, musicians, storytellers, innovators, leaders, athletes, warriors, and caregivers. Drawing upon a decade-long collaborative relationship, the design team consulted closely with members of the Choctaw Nation to realise the tribe’s mission and contribute to the community’s economic resilience beyond the casino campus. As casino resorts nationwide strive to meet and exceed increasingly sophisticated market expectations, JCJ Architecture developed an expansion that elevates the guest experience and sets the tone for future growth of the property, all while harmonising with the existing site and integrating an authentic representation of Choctaw history and culture.
An Icon on the Horizon
Visible on the horizon from miles away, the soaring 21-story, 1000-room hotel tower serves as a gateway for the expansive visitor base arriving from Dallas to the south and bookends the existing casino to the north, containing the experiential energy onsite. The new structure references the curved articulation of the existing Grand Tower, ensuring that both developments connect to tell one comprehensive story. The two curved towers converge at the edge of US-75, physically embracing the property. The Sky Tower’s sophisticated, sweeping contour creates an iconic statement as it captures the dynamic beauty of the Oklahoma skies throughout the day. The design delicately balances a skyline-scaled expression with a pedestrian-scaled experience. When viewed from within the property, the gentle curve gracefully expands into the horizon. In this way, the gesture is both an impactful architectural statement and a humble, natural extension of the property. Detailed articulation on the tower reads as a pattern or expression of a textile from a close distance, bringing down the perceived scale of the tower for the guest. Shadows dance across the façade as the sun moves across the sky, creating a shifting visual spectacle.
A Resort State of Mind
The design team sought to minimize impact on the existing site, developing the project footprint outside the boundaries of the designated wetlands area. Approaching the tower, guests meander between the existing wetlands and the new three-acre pool deck featuring both adults-only and family-friendly swimming options. The design team carefully ensured appropriate sun exposure throughout the day to maximize the use of the pool as a daylong experience. The line between indoors and out is blurred along the pool deck, immersing guests in a resort state of mind. The curved articulation of the tower gently morphs views into other views, stimulating the guest’s sense of discovery. Guests will discover something new from every approach, a journey that continues throughout the enhanced interior experience.
JCJ’s design continues to dissolve the line between the indoors and out, achieved through strategic programming of outdoor spaces, biophilic elements, daylighting, and multidirectional outdoor views. A luxurious registration area accentuated by custom lighting by Sapphire Manufacturing greets guests. The reception desk frames views of the outdoor pool bar and pavilion, beckoning guests to enjoy the oasis beyond. A sweeping 30-foot staircase above the lobby bar is punctuated by a dramatic spiraling custom chandelier by Sapphire Manufacturing made of acrylic faceted beads, powder-coated steel top housing, aircraft cables, LED can lights, and LED globe lights. The grand stair and its chandelier cascade through the space, guiding guests to enjoy a drink at the lobby bar below, or up to the third floor fine-dining restaurant, 1823 Steakhouse. The steakhouse envelops guests in a luxurious palette of warm woods, crisp accents, and a culturally-inspired carpet. Large, halo-lit mirrors throughout the space help visually widen the narrow dining area. The 125-seat venue overlooks the western Oklahoma horizon and offers guests stunning sunset views. Outside of the restaurant is a classically-inspired, formal bar lounge area. Warm wood finishes throughout are balanced by contrasting crisp black, white, and gold accents.
The expansion increases gaming capacity with 3,300 new slot machines, 40 new table games, and a poker room with 30 additional tables. Centered within the vast gaming floor, a dazzling 40-foot diameter canopy of steel and colored resin serves as a centerpiece, floating above guests at the Prizm Lounge. Brightly colored, back-lit panels spring up from the center bar, serving as a beacon for guests and capturing the energy of the space. Offering a luxurious escape from the buzz of the casino floor is The Reserve, a lounge crafted with an artisan’s touch, the perfect setting for a hand-crafted cocktail. The lounge features a custom chandelier, traditional coffers, rich jewel-tones, and dramatic lighting. Another 1,000 square-foot VIP lounge provides Choctaw’s premier guests with a private registration and reception area. The space is designed with flexible rugs and seating to easily convert from a private lounge space into a VIP event room. The High Limit Gaming and Onyx Bar areas are a step above standard, featuring luxurious finishes and a soothing color palette, topped off by undulating ribbons of wood that tie the space together. The League, a new on-site sports-themed venue, captures a tremendous amount of energy for fans of all types of sports with 88 big screen televisions and a dramatic 100-foot video wall.
The Guest Room Experience
A thoughtfully curated, world-class art collection including paintings, drawings, sculpture, and art installations—all created by Choctaw artists—lines the hotel and gallery. Spacious layouts and custom casegoods offer guests a 4-diamond experience at every level of guest room. With 843 standard rooms and 157 suites (comprising four suite types) dispersed across the 4 facades of the tower, there is bound to be a room style and unique view to meet every guest request. Culturally-inspired carpets reflect a soothing palette of blues with pops of orange. The dual curve of the towers allows the majority of guestrooms to capitalize on expansive views without interrupted sightlines. The design scheme also minimizes distance between all guestrooms and the casino floor, enabling a more accessible guest experience and more efficient serviceability. Situated at the apex of the 20th and 21st floors, two premier Chief’s Suites cater to intimate private stays as well as lavish entertaining. Guests enjoy sweeping views of the landscape surrounded by lush comfort within the 2,200-square-foot, 2 bedroom / 2.5 bath suite. Guests are further pampered by personalized meals and butler service, provided through the adjacent butler kitchens. Sophisticated detailing includes custom casegoods, full-height upholstered headboards, and multi-zoned, dimmable cove lighting. The ensuite bathrooms provides guests with a freestanding tub, a jetted oversized shower, and a large walk-in closet.
Elevating Tribal Gaming
The property provides a unique blend of comfortable and luxurious escapism for guests. By offering a top-tier experience, the expanded resort solidifies Choctaw’s continued dominance in the gaming and hospitality market, broadening its appeal to new demographics from the local region into north Texas and beyond without compromising its existing customer base. The forward-looking design also easily allows for future growth of the property. The overall experience and attention to detail throughout the southeastern Oklahoma resort rival what guests would find in Las Vegas, while carefully integrating and celebrating the rich culture and history of the Choctaw Nation. Abundant gaming and dining amenities dovetail with enhanced family-friendly options such as a bowling alley, arcade, two movie theatres, and a new retail space to send a clear message: there is something for everyone at the Choctaw Casino & Resort.