Santa Fe Station also benefiting from sportsbook renovation
October 18, 2016 3:01 AM
by Dave Dye
Those new massive video boards that can be found throughout numerous sportsbooks around town this football season provide great flexibility when it comes to putting up both game and line information.
The 12-feet-by-22-feet boards at Santa Fe Station can be filled up with one huge screen for, say, a Monday Night Football game. Or they can be broken down into several smaller screens to accommodate a heavier schedule of games.
Bill Walkowski, the sportsbook director at Santa Fe, located on the northwest side of Las Vegas, compares trying to figure out the right combination for a college football Saturday or NFL Sunday to being a “mad scientist.”
“How are we going to make this work to where we can give them the data and still get the biggest pictures out there possible?” Walkowski said. “We can put TVs on all five (boards), we can put data on all five. There’s nothing better technologically in the world.”
Walkowski, 43, certainly has the right background to figure it all out. He started writing sports tickets at MGM Grand when he was 21 years old, before moving on to management positions at Green Valley Ranch and Texas Station.
He said his favorite part of the job in those days was working in the backroom and trying to identify the correct satellite coordinates off the old mega-sized dishes to pick up all of the telecasts, before the days of DirecTV made things much easier.
“You had to be creative,” he said.
The big boards at Santa Fe these days are the most noticeable additions but just part of an extensive renovation that began the day after the Fourth of July and was completed in time for this season’s kickoffs.
The sportsbook also added four-top tables to replace some of the race carols (desks) along with new benches and tables, similar to the set-up at GVR. Walkowski said the changes made that section of the book “a little more social.”
“Some people are more interested in sitting and having a social atmosphere,” contrary to what the individual desk seating offers, Walkowski said.
Other improvements included replacing the individual TVs and “snake lights” while also adding USB charging outlets at each of the desks; putting down new carpeting throughout the book; refurbishing some of the chairs, and installing new 60-, 70- and 80-inch LED TVs behind the counter, in the back of the book and on the side walls.
What’s more, a private box has been added to the VIP section, which sits between the main sportsbook and a lounge area in the back.
To Santa Fe general manager Rob McDermott, the biggest difference is in the video boards, which largely determine whether a sportsbook is jam-packed or empty these days. He said the bright new ones make the previous darkened projection screens seem like “a black-and-white TV with rabbit ears” by comparison.
The sportsbook is just part of the new-look offerings at Santa Fe.
“We have a lot going on, a lot of projects that we’re excited about,” McDermott said.
The Cabo Mexican restaurant was recently renovated to give it a more modern appearance. The movie theater replaced its old traditional seats with luxury recliners. The bowling alley is getting new video screens, along with updated ball returns, gutters and pin setters, “a lot of nuts and bolts stuff for the functionality” as McDermott put it.
Then there’s the new bingo room that is expected to open by Thanksgiving. This bingo room, which replaces a country night club, seats fewer people than the current bingo location but will still have enough space to accommodate even the busiest times.
The difference is the new room is going to feature a major technological upgrade, including “cosmic” bingo sessions with a disc jockey during non-traditional bingo hours, to try to attract the younger generation to the game.
“That’s the goal,” said McDermott, in his second year as GM at Santa Fe and 14th year overall with Station Casinos.
McDermott indicated he envisions even more improvements coming in 2017 to Santa Fe, which serves the newer populations of Providence and Skye Canyon, although he’s not tipping his hand just yet on any of the details.
“There are a few things we’re in the process of presenting,” he said. “There’s more to come next year.”