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TUCSON-Tucson’s Pascua Yaqui Tribe has cut the ribbon on a $29-million expansion to the Casino Del Sol to make it the state’s largest entertainment venue to date.

Modeled after a Mediterranean village, the 213,000-sf Casino Del Sol, located off Valencia Road just minutes from downtown Tucson, was completed in just eight months by the Southwest Division of McCarthy Building Cos., which dubbed the project “one of the most innovative and visually impressive Native American casinos” in the Southwest.

“It’s setting new standards in the state for quality,” Bob Knochenhauer, McCarthy’s vice president, tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s a new bar.”

Developed by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and designed by Leo A. Daly of Phoenix, the expanded casino features a 112,000-sf bingo hall with seating for more than 600 players along with additional space for 500 slot machines, 26 blackjack tables, four restaurants staffed by world-class chefs, sports bar and lounge situated under a stone gazebo at the casino’s center. The expansion, which began in November 2002, cost $29 million to complete.

Among the Casino Del Sol’s major design features is a Mediterranean village complete with storefronts, streetscapes and a town square. More than two dozen facades along the streetscape house customer service areas, security desks and entrances to the casino’s restaurants and sports bar.

One of its more impressive features, however, is a 40,000-sf, hand-painted ceiling. The “Mediterranean Sky,” suspended 45 feet above the casino floor, is painted to resemble the natural sky and absent of center supports to give the feeling of a large, open, expanse of space. McCarthy erected more than 34,000 sf of scaffolding to construct the “Big Sky,” which allowed workers to hand paint every inch of the ceiling’s surface.

Knochenhauer said one of the biggest challenges the builder faced was overcoming a tight eight-month building schedule. That problem was solved by using more than 200 craftsmen working double shifts six days a week.

“The key to the schedule’s success is that we set a plan and executed it,” Knochenhauer said. “The whole team of developer, architect and builder didn’t let things linger. Decisions were immediate. That cohesion of working together and coming to a fast resolution made a big difference.”

The Casino Del Sol is the second casino for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. The tribe also operates the nearby Casino of the Sun on the same land southwest of Tucson.

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