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Sandia’s new look: Amphitheater gets a face-lift as entrance, other areas get makeovers

Construction crews have been hard at work making significant upgrades and renovations to Sandia Resort & Casino.

Its amphitheater is getting a face-lift, and eventgoers will get to see it for its first show on July 6, featuring “Fluffy” comedian Gabriel Iglesias.

“It was time for all-new seating,” said Roy Corby, general manager of casino operations. “Those seats have been in since we built the amphitheater. It was just time to truly change those out. Some of them were getting less comfortable. They were starting to wear, and there was some breakage. It was really time to redo that whole thing, plus the seats at the lower end on the concrete, on the flat right in front of the stage, they weren’t really removable. We needed to make those removable so if we wanted to do some live sports events, live boxing, live MMA, we could do that out there because that’s where the ring would go. So we needed to change all that down at the bottom so we could do more and make it a truly interactive experience.”

The amphitheater’s sound booth and lighting area also has been relocated. The remodel took seating down from 4,200 to about 4,160 but created a better sound and lighting experience for guests. Concession areas also have been revamped.

“I don’t think it’s any secret, a majority of the people that go to the concerts, while there’s some food sales, for the most part it’s beverage sales, whether it’s alcohol or it’s sodas, that’s truly where the majority of the sales occur,” Corby said. “And we weren’t set up efficiently for that. You had lines for 15-20 minutes during the show. You’re missing part of the show because you’re standing up there, so we needed to expand our venues. Create more venues. Create more point-of-sale windows for guests to be able to get in and get out and get back to their seat and enjoy the show. And they were all enclosed and covered this year, as opposed to just being out (in the open).

Eventgoers who need to take a potty break at a show also are in for a pleasant surprise. The number of restrooms has increased to reduce lines and wait times.

The amphitheater renovation project began on Oct. 1 and is expected to be completed by June 30.

“You know it’s a little disappointing because you miss part of the concert season,” Corby said. “Normally we’d have the amphitheater open in May and then all of June, so obviously we miss out on some concerts that we would have liked to have had just because the routing was coming through this area at this time. But we felt changing and improving the guest experience was we were at a critical point. We needed to get it done now.”

Sandia’s Grand Ballroom also got a makeover and has served as an event space since early this year. The ballroom can accommodate between 1,500 and 1,800 people. The smaller audience size provides guests with a more intimate experience than larger venues.

“The ballroom renovation went unbelievably fast and well,” Corby said. “We shut it down completely for 30 days so if there were some events that were already scheduled in there we found other areas to host them in so we could just really focus on that for 30 days. And we shut that down completely and we worked almost around the clock to make that completely new area. So everything in that area is completely new.”

Patrons also will notice a redesigned front entrance and driveway. The driveway that circled the amphitheater is no longer, and Sandia has streamlined the main entry. It is expected to open by June 29.

A rendering shows what the new main entrance at Sandia Resort & Casino is expected to look like when it opens in late June. (Courtesy of Sandia Resort & Casino)

“The entrance was old and dated, and the vigas, some of them were starting to split,” Corby said. “It was time to change them out. But it was also time to get rid of that round circular entrance, that revolving door. As great as they look, they’re a nightmare. If you’re in a wheelchair or in a walker and the other doors are being tied up for maintenance or, you know, if there’s a lot of traffic, you’re kind of stuck. So we needed to get rid of those and really make it a true easy entrance. So we did the same thing on the south entrance, which opened up in October, which is when we went to the main entrance. We’re looking forward to having valet parking back up there and fully utilizing the main entrance to our casino. That’s what people have been waiting for.”

Inside, Sandia’s elevators have been redone and now feature large and bright flat screens that showcase promotions and events throughout the property. Showcasing there is more to Sandia than just its casino has been the focus of its new branding campaign. Commercials and billboards focus on the Green Reed Spa, its award-winning golf course and its various dining and lounge options.

“We are the only true 24-hour destination in the city,” Corby said. “So if you’re looking to spend a whole 24 hours of entertainment on a weekend, where else do you want to go? You can stay here on a Friday night. Go to the casino, get up in the morning, go to breakfast, go to the golf course for several hours, then go get a spa treatment. Grab lunch in between out at the golf course patio. After your spa treatment go back to your room and get changed and go downstairs for a couple hours, have a couple drinks at the lounge or play some tables. Go to dinner and then go back out on the floor and dance at Tlur Pa (lounge) to whichever band is playing that night, and then we do this whole thing on Saturday and Sunday. What other venues in town do you have 24-hour entertainment right there?”

Got a tip on your favorite casino? Contact Rozanna M. Martinez at rmartinez@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @RozannaABQ.

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