Good things come to those that wait — in Sandia Resort & Casino’s case, things could not be better.
The resort and casino utilized the time it was closed due to the pandemic to construct an entire wing that includes an expanded high limit gaming area, one of the largest in New Mexico; a new Governor’s Room;, and a state-of-the-art sports bar. The sports bar features numerous big screen TVs and features an outside wrap-around deck with views of the Sandia Mountains and the city and beyond. The newly constructed entertainment space is about 50,000 square feet.
“The plan was always to add additional gaming space,” said Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuart Paisano. “The second floor is not occupied right now. So, part of that area, we enhanced our HVAC units to provide more clean air on the south side of the casino so that our customers can enjoy a fresher environment, so to speak. And then our new sports bar is located on the third floor. So that was always the plan with the expansion that had been in development since 2019. We started construction and then COVID hit.”
Sandia is the last of the large casinos and resorts to open in the state.
Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino, Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino, Isleta Resort & Casino, Route 66 Casino Hotel and Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel are now open with some of the smaller casinos remaining closed. The Downs Racetrack & Casino in Albuquerque is also fully open, according to its website.
Sandia’s new sports bar features a Class II gaming area, which means guests are able to enjoy cocktails while playing their favorite slot machines. Guests can also order from a full menu.
“We do not have sports book yet. That will be forthcoming,” Paisano said. “It was in the works, but COVID hit. Our management team has done a great job to get us to this point. So we’ll be adding some additional gaming attractions through our property. And a sports book, our sports betting will be one of them.”
In addition to the new wing, more construction took place at other locations on the property including Bien Shur Rooftop Restaurant & Lounge and the hotel. Renovations have transformed the areas. The darker color schemes have been replaced with lighter, brighter décor, carpeting, paint and tile. Floor-to-ceiling windows surround Bien Shur’s lounge area and dining room. A newly erected rectangular bar has plenty of seating and offers amenities such as charging stations for cellphones and convenient hooks for purses and bags.
Every room in the hotel was stripped down and redone. Draped picturesque windows have replaced the dated wood shutters. Each room underwent a complete décor transformation from the walls to the carpets to the furnishings.
“I would like to emphasize the pueblo’s reinvestment in the local economy,” Paisano said. “That has also been very crucial to us. During COVID, we did a lot of construction here at our property, which kept our main general contractor, Jaynes Corp., and all of their subcontractors gainfully employed as well. So, we tried to do our part by ensuring that we were assisting the local economy by keeping those various industries employed. So that’s something that times it gets overlooked, especially in tribal governments.”
Though state health orders were lifted July 1, the property is keeping the buffet, Green Reed Spa, convention center space, the bingo room and the poker room closed. There also is a limited capacity at the table games. Smoking is prohibited except in three designated smoking areas. Concerts and shows in the amphitheater also will not take place this year.
“Eventually, we will be opening up our convention center space,” Paisano said. “However, our tribal council has taken a very cautious approach on our opening. We’ve delayed our opening for as long as we have, because we wanted to ensure the health and safety and well-being of our tribal members, our employees and our guests. So that has not changed. Hence, why some of the COVID precautions are still in effect with regards to wearing a mask, social distancing, hand sanitizing, the cleaning of the property, etc..”
The delay in reopening was less about the completion of the construction and renovations and more about protecting the health, safety and well-being of Sandia tribal members, its employees and guests, Paisano said.
“That has been our biggest priority since we closed on March 17, 2020,” he said. “And I would like to make that an emphasis. Second, even during that time of the closure, we took the added step of ensuring that all of our employees were paid until July of 2020. We didn’t anticipate COVID to last this long, but we took care of our employees as well, at the pueblo’s expense, to ensure that they were able to provide for their families. … Unfortunately, COVID continued to occur and we just could not continue to afford to try to do that. So hence why it was cut off in July.”
For more information on Sandia Resort & Casino, visit sandiacasino.com.