Hello Bellagio, meet Cherokee

The Mirage has a volcano. There’s the Fountains of Bellagio, and the pyramid-shaped Luxor.

Cherokee will have the Rotunda, the crown jewel of the $633 million expansion to be unveiled next year and serve as the new casino entrance.

“With any casino, the notion of a grand arrival is key to create a sense of excitement,” said Erik Sneed, the tribe’s construction manager over the project. “You want a huge sensomatic, volumetric experience.”

And that’s exactly what Cherokee will have.

rotundaShining five-story trees made of colored glass, like giant Tiffany lamps, ring the Rotunda with a 75-foot waterfall cascading down the middle. A 140-foot screen wraps around the walls where choreographed shows will be projected in concert with visual manipulation of the lighting in the trees and waterfall, along with intense audio effects.

“The lights will go down, you hear thunder rumble, suddenly the trees glow an intense red, the screen comes on, the music start and the show plays,” Sneed described.

One of 15 shows will play on an hourly schedule.

A massive, floating, spiral staircase winds through the trees and wraps around the waterfall. The self-supporting staircase was designed without columns underneath.

“We wanted the effect of a staircase that looked like it was suspended in thin air,” Sneed said.

But it also took an engineering feat to float with 50 tons of twisted steel.

“The only place that could roll steel that big was in Canada. We had to buy the steel, have it fabricated, shipped to Canada and then back to Cherokee,” Sneed said.

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