Triple sevens come up again for Dike Bacon and his Memphis-based Hnedak Bobo Group. The nationally recognized casino resort design and planning company, which prospered handsomely by serving the lucrative Indian gaming niche for the past few years, has laid the foundation for its next jackpot.
Hnedak Bobo created DreamCatcher hotels late last year, and will unfurl the first property in that line, a 400-room hotel for the Coushatta Tribe in Louisiana this spring. The company will design and build the facility and will likely create more hotels in future years. Although some clients may not be tribal companies, many figure to be.
While DreamCatcher materializes, Hnedak Bobo continues cashing in with its tribal alliances, forged from a strategic decision made several years ago.
“We set a goal to leverage our history in hospitality and with commercial gaming companies like Harrah’s into becoming a leader in Indian gaming,” Bacon says. “This is now a $26 billion industry, and our decision to build our brand in Indian Country has been rewarding from a design and relationship standpoint.”
Indian gaming projects enabled Hnedak Bobo—which works with or for more than 25 of the nation’s most prestigious tribes—to increase its workforce by one-third to 88 people last year. Bacon is a principal for the company, which handles complete planning and design for projects of all stages.
The Native American gaming dynamic is varied. Some tribes wish to instill their culture overtly, others subtly. What ties them together is the need to compete in a tight marketplace.
“Gaming is an activity people are just not going to give up,” Bacon says. “Some people play golf. Some go to a casino. They just spend less right now.
“Our job is to keep them engaged and spending. The biggest change right now? Whereas you may have added a four-star amenity in the past, now it’s a three, not because you want to affect quality, but because you need to deliver this project at a price point that can get it financed. We laugh about how it used to be the legal guys who told us what to do. Now it’s the banks.”
In 2011, the firm completed a renovation project for the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in San Diego, adding amenities like a high-end sports bar. It also designed a new facility for the Pokagon Band of Indians in Hartford, Michigan. The property has 500 machines, a snack bar and restaurant, tailor-made for a specific market.
Another crowning jewel is Wind Creek Casino Hotel, which opened in 2009 in Alabama. Hnedak Bobo design blends cultural references with modern materials on this property. The casino’s high woven ceiling inside reflects an abstract rendition of wind movement.
Hnedak Bobo, founded in 1979, has captured over 200 design and industry awards. It designed the Gaylord Palms Resort in Florida and the Gaylord Texan resort outside Dallas, Texas, to the combined tune of $1 billion. It is also one of the rare design companies to own a hotel, the Westin in Memphis.