California Hotel and Casino, which just celebrated its 42nd year in business earlier this year, is undergoing a top-to-bottom redesign and renovation for the first time since it opened in 1975. Once finished, the upgrades will touch nearly every corner of the property, inside and out.
The project began in early 2014 with vision and leadership from former Executive Vice President and Chief Business Development Officer Bob Boughner, who retired from the Company last year. Boughner started at The Cal in 1976.
“With a very well-established customer base, The Cal’s renovations needed to preserve the timeless essence of the property, yet also appeal to a broader demographic that may not have considered it as an interesting destination previously,” said Ron Frye, Vice President of Design and Construction for Boyd Gaming. “We didn't want our long-time Hawaiian customers to come in and say, 'Where's my California?' after the renovations concluded."
With that in mind, Director of Design Sean Tanner aimed to make guests feel at home without going over the top. "We were trying to evoke a classic Hawaiian feel, but with a modern twist," said Tanner.
The Design and Construction team, working hand-in-hand with local, award-winning design firm Tandem, started the new customer experience with a reimagined port-cochere. The dramatic changes included a new, sparkling black and white polished terrazzo floor, and a dramatically lighted “Mahalo” sign mounted over a huge-scale boxwood hedge wall. Coral-colored glass entry doors lead to the beautifully updated registration area.
The guest registration area’s overhaul kept the original pressed tin ceiling coffers to preserve a sense of familiarity, but added glamorous modern chandeliers and seating elements to create a grander sense of arrival. Just behind the check-in desk are two colorful close-up photographs of the kaleidoscopic tree bark of Maui’s Rainbow Forest, shot by renowned nature photographer Jeff Mitchum.
The casino, meanwhile, was freshened up from head to toe with new wallpaper, ceiling tiles and carpet, while the original custom-fitted chandelier hanging above the table games was restored with new treatments and embellishments to make it more modern.
That particular chandelier, which Tanner calls an heirloom, is now a focal point for the casino. The glass-front-facing walls of Redwood Steakhouse and California Noodle House look in at the casino on one side, while Cal Sports Lounge, a non-traditional race and sports book with an immersive, relaxing sports bar, looks in from the opposite side.
Another addition to the casino floor, the luau-inspired Holo Holo – The Happy Bar brightens the room with exuberant pops of color and adds nostalgia with vintage photographs of Boyd Gaming executives from the Company’s early years, including shots of co-founders Sam and Bill Boyd.
And at Redwood Steakhouse, an elevated, reimagined experience of the original Redwood Grill, the experience begins as you approach the restaurant, where a large, inviting window looks in on the bar. Colorful, enlarged Hawaiian stamps hang framed on one wall above private booths, while large palm frond inspired light fixtures hang from the ceiling. “There are subtle nods to our island clientele, without feeling like a themed restaurant,” said Tanner.
Upstairs on the second floor, a recently refreshed Aloha Specialties serves authentic Hawaiian cuisine like saimin and oxtail stew.
Also updated and modernized were 435 guest rooms and 56 suites in the hotel’s west tower. Echoing the contemporary color palette and subtle island influence of the property’s overall design, the rooms feature new furniture, carpet with line-work resembling beachy waves or sand, modern bubble fixtures and more. In the refurbished bathrooms, bathtubs were converted into roomy showers.
With much already completed, there is still more to come at The Cal.
“When we’re done, there will be nothing untouched,” said Frye.