VERONA, N.Y. -- When the Oneida Indian Nation finishes the second
phase of its ambitious, two-year, $308 million expansion of Turning
Stone Resort and Casino later this year, it might well have to
change the name of the property.
The narrow "resort and casino" tag just just won't do it.
I recently donned a hard hat for a tour of the property, which
had started out a decade ago as a simple bingo hall and blossomed
over the years into a hotel-casino and golf destination.
Located 30 miles east of Syracuse in central New York state, the
regional, drive-to resort had seemed adequate for a time, with its
279-room hotel housing a 120,000-square-foot casino; a 62-room inn;
an RV park and campground; and two 18-hole championship golf
"[But] we got to the point where that wasn't enough anymore. We
were unable to satisfy the needs of our customers as far as room
bookings and conventions," said Frank Riolo, Turning Stone's chief
Following is a look at some of the new pieces to the puzzle.
Here's where I had to hold onto my hard hat. Come mid-September,
Turning Stone's existing hotel will be dwarfed by a 19-story tower
that will be connected to the hotel via the winter garden atrium,
the resort's new grand entrance.
Besides the 287-room tower, the entire complex will be
complemented by a 98-suite luxury hotel, a full-service spa, an
indoor events center and a third 18-hole championship golf
The tower will feature 266 guest rooms and 21 VIP suites, which,
according to Riolo, "are more for the high-roller gaming
Seven of the suites will average 1,000 square feet, and the
other 14 will offer views of the surrounding golf courses and
central New York countryside.
Tower guests will have access to a third-floor fitness center,
complete with swimming pool, and suite guests can dine in a
private, top-floor restaurant, the Top of the Tower, which Riolo
likened to the Foundation Club at the Mandalay Bay Resort &
Casino in Las Vegas.
"There will be a yearly fee [to join] this private restaurant,
but if you're staying in one of those suites, you will have access
to the restaurant," he added.
In addition to more hotel rooms, the expansion project includes
the construction of an indoor events center targeted at attracting
national entertainment acts, large conventions and indoor sports
events, such as boxing and lacrosse.
Also expected to open in mid-September, the events center will
feature a main arena measuring more than 29,000 square feet; nearly
6,000 square feet of meetings and conference space located in three
rooms off the event floor; and seven boardroom-style meetings
rooms, each measuring up to 900 square feet.
Theater-style seats on adjustable platforms will allow for a
variety of event-floor configurations for concerts, trade shows and
expos; concerts, for example, will be able to hold upwards of 5,000
Some of the structure's bells and whistles will be an in-house
public address system for the event floor and individual meetings
rooms as well as in-house audiovisual services, including
teleconferencing, videoconferencing and high-speed Internet and
The events center will be connected by escalators to the
two-story winter garden atrium.
Waterfalls; skylights; eight types of trees, including
22-foot-tall palm trees; other plants, such as bamboo, ferns, vines
and ornamental grasses; and seasonal flowers will set the tone for
the 37,000-square-foot atrium, set to debut with the hotel
The atrium will include a 375-seat buffet restaurant, a 150-seat
themed restaurant and a cappuccino and pastry shop.
Although focused on expanding Turning Stone's meetings and
conventions business, officials also were looking to grow leisure
"We wanted to reach out to the New York City market and into
other [nearby] states," Riolo said. "We want to make this a place
where people can come for two or three days."
The Lodge at Turning Stone should fit the bill.
The upscale, 98-suite property, which was set to open April 16,
is made of wood and stone, recalling a traditional Adirondack
lodge, and features an expansive great terrace and great lawn as
well as a nearby scenic lake.
Inside, the building's great room, dominated by a massive stone
fireplace, boasts cherry wood floors and a frosted-glass wall,
illuminated from within, that is decorated with art objects.
Suites are differentiated by their size as well as by the view
Standard suites, which are anything but what their name implies,
feature 10-foot-high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Corner suites also offer fireplaces, plasma TVs and private
balconies or decks with their own hot tubs.
On the lodge's top floor is the 2,900-square-foot Presidential
suite, which features three bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms,
two fireplaces and an entertainment center with a home theater
It also has a full kitchen, butler service and a master bedroom
with its own minispa.
The Presidential Suite is priced at $3,000 per night, while the
standard and corner suites run $250 per night and $450 per night,
"We took all the five-diamond and five-star standards and built
this place around them," said Robert McEleney, vice president of
The Spa and golf courses
That includes the Spa at Turning Stone, a 27,000-square-foot
facility connected to the lodge via a covered walkway.
Scheduled to open by the end of the year, the spa will feature
various treatments and treatment rooms as well as a grotto pool
with indoor and outdoor components.
The lodge also overlooks Kaluhyat and Shenendoah, the resort's
two 18-hole championship golf courses designed by Robert Trent
Jones and Rick Smith, respectively.
Atunyote, a third championship course, designed by Tom Fazio, is
under construction and will open July 21.
With all the new offerings, the resort will be featuring at
least half a dozen commissionable travel packages, including spa,
golf and entertainment-oriented plans, Riolo said.
For more information, call (800) 771-7711 or log onto www.turning-stone.com.
To contact reporter Amy Baratta, send e-mail to [email protected] .