The doors are now officially open for Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort’s new hotel.
On Wednesday, April 21, Oaklawn held the grand opening for its luxury hotel, spa and event center, all part of a $100 million expansion project. The eight-story tall hotel features 198 rooms, including two presidential suites, while the 15,000 square-foot event center provides a 1,900 square-foot stage, a video wall and seating for 1,500 people.
“We are taking luxury to a whole new level in Arkansas,” Oaklawn president Louis Cella said in a statement. “It will enhance the entertainment experience at Oaklawn, in Hot Springs and throughout Arkansas, which will further elevate our status as a leading tourism and recreation destination.”
The expansion was announced in 2018, following a state ballot measure that expanded casino gaming in Arkansas. However, Cella said in 2018 that the expansion had been in the works since 2014.
Development and construction on the project has taken place over the past 28 months. According to Oaklawn general manager Wayne Smith, the development went off successfully despite the unexpected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A little two years in an event quite similar to this one, I announced our vision for Oaklawn’s future and the project that was going to lead us there. Massive construction that would lead to significant increase in visitors to our state, to our community. And massive increases in employment. We committed to creating a world-class resort that did not exist in Arkansas,” Cella said during the opening ceremony.
As part of the expansion project, Oaklawn is also constructing a new spa center, called the Astral Spa. This facility will feature a needle shower, infrared sauna and a Himalayan Salt wall. Currently, the spa is not open.
Casino gaming has expanded with this project, although the casino opened in early 2020. The expanded gaming center has more than 1,500 slot machines and 33 gaming tables, and there is a new High Limits section which has 80 slot machines, three high-limit blackjack tables, a private outdoor patio and a private bar.
There is also a bar outside the gaming center, called the First Turn, as well as a fine dining restaurant called The Bugler. Oaklawn has also placed a food court with three different dining options – Big Al’s, Perc’s and a New York-style deli.
During the project, HGB Design of Memphis, Tenn. served as the architectural partner, while Flintco of Springdale was the construction contractor.
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Images courtesy of CJRW