Native Style Re-Imagined

Some 30 years after its founding as a popular New Mexico casino-resort, the Inn of the Mountain Gods has come back to life as a re-styled, four-diamond $200-million complex offering a vast menu of activities and amenities in a picturesque mountain setting.

The inn, with its spectacular view of Sierra Blanca Peak in the distance, is located in the southern Sacramento Mountains on the banks of Lake Mescalero, some 180 miles southwest of Albuquerque.

In tearing down a casino-hotel built in 1975 and replacing it with a more contemporary building, the Mescalero Apache Tribal Council sought to reach out to a more affluent base of gaming clients and compete more vigorously in the state's ever-expanding gaming trade.

“Replacing an aging facility with a new complex made a lot of sense,” explains Brian Parrish, the Inn of the Mountain Gods' chief operating officer. “We were mindful that New Mexico is a growing gaming destination, and wanted to be in the best possible position to capitalize on the area's recent surge in gaming activity.”

The spacious, 1.1 million-square-foot resort draws primarily from a 300-mile radius, though its marketing efforts target out-of-state audiences as far away as Arizona, Texas and California.

The inn features 250 oversized and deluxe guestrooms, 26 suites and 38,000 square feet of gaming space. The resort also operates three restaurants, a “live action” buffet, a sports bar, a nightclub and a 30,000-square-foot convention facility. A steel-framed underground garage with 1,500 spaces is said to be the largest parking facility of its type in North America.

Mescalero Apache culture is on display throughout the complex and includes original tribal artwork in public areas and all guestrooms. In addition, Native American tribal music is piped continuously into the lobby area.

Designed by the Denver office of the Worth Group, the project sits on a delicate site with steep slopes facing Lake Mescalero. The complex was initially planned with a surface parking lot, but the architects re-designed the project to move the parking underground.

In addition, the inn was initially envisioned as a concrete masonry project, but the size and scale along with local workforce constraints led the designers to switch to a steel-framed building clad in an Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) with dry-stacked stone details. “The tribal council didn't want the resort to look too much like a casino,” says Delbert Ragland, the Worth Group's project architect. “At the same time, the project's essence is personalized to the tribe, which seeks to honor its past, present and future. Therefore, everything you see is an abstraction of an element that existed in the original building or is important to the tribe.”

One such element is the resort's semi-circular entryway, which draws its inspiration from a 19th century Apache war shield. A series of porte-cocheres gradually fall back from the driveway into the building's doors. A plaza water fountain depicts crown dancers, who represent the Apache's sacred mountain spirits.

Topping the resort's Grand Hall, hotel and convention center is a standing metal seam with off-center barrel vault metal roofing. Some 160,000 square feet of Galvalume steel panels were used to cover the three areas. The roof forms, like many of the interior design compositions, were generated from traditional Mescalero Apache ancestral art forms. In selecting metal for the roof, the Worth Group wanted a material that could readily accommodate the arched roof design, yet be aesthetically compatible with the remainder of the building's exterior.

Though the building is officially only three stories high, the architects were able to gain eight stories by pushing the building envelope down the hillside to the adjacent lake. The roof's curved green vaults and the exterior simulated stone accents serve to blend the entire structure into the surrounding landscape.

The tribe wanted the new facility to project an image that would allow guests to conjure up “unique interpretations and reflections” of the inn and its breathtaking surroundings, says Parrish. “To be sure, both the interior and exterior of the building, including color schemes, are in total harmony with one another, reflecting our desire to offer the ultimate in resort experiences,” he says.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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