Turning Stone ranks as top NY attraction

Dec 5, 2000 5:48 AM

VERONA, N.Y. -- Turning Stone Casino Resort isn’t standing pat as one of the top tourist attractions in central New York. The Oneida Nation of Indians facility has growth plans with a target of one million more customers a year.

Chief Operating Officer Frank Riolo says Turning Stone has an ambitious five-year program for expansion. He credits CEO Ray Halbritter, who directed the tremendous growth of the resort from a bingo hall in a little more than seven years, with the development visions.

First will be the construction next summer of a 23,000 square-foot clubhouse for the resort’s PGA-caliber Shenendoah Golf Course. It will include a 400-seat banquet room; outdoor balcony overlooking the first, 10th and 18th holes; a store and a restaurant.

Also next year, Turning Stone’s 90,000 square-foot casino will be expanded by 50,000 square feet. A music lounge and huge bus terminal will be added. Turning Stone is averaging more than 100 bus tours a week.

In the second phase of development, 300 rooms will be added to its 285-room luxury hotel. The convention center will be enlarged and a multi-level parking garage for 1,000 cars added. Start date for those projects has not been determined.

The swimming pool will be expanded into a water-theme park in Phase 3, with a "river" for recreation and restaurants, all under a glass dome. This could be five years down the road.

The Oneidas don’t put a dollar figure on the new construction. They are very guarded about disclosing numbers except to say Turning Stone has a payroll of $75.3 million per year and 2,200 employees.

By year’s end, Riolo expects more than 3.5 million people will have visited the resort. He credits last year’s addition of a convention center and showroom for a marked increase in patrons. "We had a great year in our convention facility," Riolo said. "We had to turn business down in the summer."

The Nation’s new cashless Oneida II multi-game machines -- being built by the Oneidas -- are being installed. Riolo expects profits to rise between 10 and 15 percent.


The Scintas take Vegas act on the road

VERONA, N.Y. -- The Scintas, a music, comedy and variety group in the "old style" of Las Vegas show acts, will bring their fun-filled show to the showroom of Turning Stone Casino Resort on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for this talented group, which hails from nearby Buffalo. Three siblings -- brothers Frankie and Joey, and "baby sister" Chrissi Scinta -- join longtime family friend Pete O’Donnel in an evening of songs and impressions, appealing to audiences of all ages and tastes.

The Scintas are regular entertainers at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Also scheduled is country singer Andy Griggs, at the Oneida Nation casino on Saturday, Dec. 16.

Griggs, one of the hottest new acts to hit the country music scene, brings his "beefy, bruising, blues-inflected" vocals. He scored a No. 1 hit with his 1999 debut single, "You Won’t Ever Be Lonely," making him the first new male artist since 1995 to reach the top of the charts with his first release. His follow-up single, "I’ll Go Crazy," also hit the top 10.

A native of Monroe, La., Griggs moved to Nashville in 1995 and began his country music career as a demo singer. He soon came to the attention of RCA Nashville boss Joe Galante, which led to his debut album and to a new task for Griggs: songwriting.

"That’s not near as easy to pick up as a guitar. It’s either in you or it’s not," Griggs says. "Even if it’s in you, you’ve gotta learn how to do it. Pretty much, you learn how to open your soul up just right."

One of the top five tourist attractions in New York, Turning Stone Casino Resort is just off New York State Thruway Exit 33 in Verona (about 30 miles east of Syracuse). Besides its casino and the showroom, the resort has two golf courses (including an 18-hole championship course), seven restaurants, an RV park, a health spa and beauty salon, a conference center, a bingo hall and five retail shops.