TYRE — A lot has changed in one year.
It was January 2016. Wilmorite and Peninsula Pacific, the entities behind the $440 million del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre, Seneca County, held a beam signing ceremony. State and local elected officials attended and added their names to the imposing steel beam.
Del Lago was nothing more than a dirt lot at the time. Construction crews had started work on the foundation and structure, but weren't far along.
Now, after a year of work, del Lago's casino is nearly 100 percent complete. Jeff Babinski, executive vice president and general manager of del Lago, said there's some minor work that needs to be done before the grand opening Wednesday. But the casino is essentially a finished product.
Three days before del Lago opens, The Citizen was allowed to tour the casino and provide a look inside New York's latest destination gaming resort.
Del Lago's 94,000-square-foot gaming floor boasts 2,001 slot machines and 89 table games, including 12 in the casino's poker room.
For slot machine players, there is a variety of games, such as Candy Shop, Mixed Fruit Magic and Valentines Day. A vast majority of the slot machines are on the gaming floor, with a handful of games in the high limit room.
The table games include blackjack, craps and roulette. The poker room on the southern side of the casino offers a more intimate environment, with comfortable lighting and televisions for additional entertainment.
The slot machines occupy most of the space on the gaming floor, with the table games spread throughout the facility. For example, outside of the poker room you can find blackjack, craps and roulette tables on the south side of the building. On the eastern side of the casino near The Vine, del Lago's entertainment venue, there are more table games.
For players with deeper pockets, a high limit area features select table games and slot machines.
A couple of the table games near The Vine sport a different pattern than the traditional layout you would see in a casino. The tables feature advertising for upcoming concerts at The Vine. For now, the tables promote rock group Bad Company's concert on Feb. 10 — the first at the 2,400-seat venue — rapper Flo Rida's Feb. 11 performance. (Bad Company's concert has sold out.)
Babinski said the promotional graphics will be updated to advertise upcoming concerts and comedy shows at The Vine.
While minor work is wrapping up on the rest of the casino, most of the remaining construction is focused on The Vine.
During The Citizen's tour Sunday, construction crews continued to work inside the entertainment hall. Babinski said The Vine will be ready for Bad Company's concert.
So far, del Lago has announced several comedy shows and concerts at The Vine. The acts range from Bad Company and Flo Rida to comedians Bill Engvall and Larry The Cable Guy. The casino recently added country music acts Trace Adkins and Dustin Lynch to the lineup.
Outside The Vine, there's a lounge area with a full bar for patrons. Televisions provide an alternative to gaming and the entertainment inside the concert venue.
The Vine's bar offers a full menu of alcoholic beverages, including 16 beers on tap. Many of the beers are either brewed in New York or produced by New York-based breweries, including Empire Brewing Company in Syracuse and Southern Tier Brewing Company in Chautauqua County.
There's a touch of Cayuga County inside del Lago.
Savor New York — MacKenzie Childs at del Lago features select items from the Aurora-based company's collection and its Jay Strongwater brand.
John Ling, CEO of Aurora Holdings, which owns MacKenzie-Childs, told The Citizen in September that del Lago approached the company about opening a retail outlet inside the casino. The offer interested the company, mainly due to the proximity to its base of operations.
One due to the location being close to our headquarters and being in an area with the customer base that's very familiar with our product, and one that is most likely coming to that area because of the draw of the casino, but also the draw of the Finger Lakes region, which we're so very much an important part of," Ling said.
There are several MacKenzie-Childs products available in Savor New York. The shop will also offer tastings of New York-made cheeses and craft beverages, such as beer and wine. There will be a rotation of breweries, wineries and other craft beverage producers featured in the store.
Del Lago has an array of dining options for its patrons.
If you want a quick meal, the food court, which is located near Savor New York, has three options: Ciccino's Pizzeria & Paninoteca, Moe's Southwest Grill and Smashburger.
Moe's and Smashburger are chains operated by a Rochester-area franchisee. Ciccino's is a Finger Lakes-based pizzeria with existing locations in Geneva and Waterloo.
For more of an upscale dining experience, the 201-seat Portico by Fabio Viviani offers an old-world Italian menu with chops, steaks and seafood. Viviani, a celebrity chef who appeared on Bravo's "Top Chef," a reality TV show, will have a hands-on role with the restaurant that bears his name.
Portico is equipped with a luxurious bar and comfortable seating for guests. And it offers a full view of the gaming floor.
The Farmer's Market Buffet has plenty of options for guests. There will be Asian cuisine and Mexican offerings. Fine meats will be grilled and served daily. Desserts, including gelato made in house, will be served.
Like Portico by Fabio Viviani, the buffet will also serve locally sourced foods.
If players are looking to just relax and enjoy a beverage, the bars in Portico and The Vine are options. So, too, is Centrifico, a lounge area located in the center of the gaming area.
Patrons can have drinks in Centrifico, play video poker at the bar and watch television. Since it's right off the gaming floor, it's can give players a break from the hustle and bustle of the casino.
The Sociale will be another dining option for visitors. The restaurant will offer a cafe-style menu and a bar.
The casino is complete, but construction continues on the interior of the 205-room hotel, which is still on track to open this summer, Babinski said.
The hotel will also be home to a 10,000-square-foot spa, which will have 17 treatment rooms, a boutique shop and salon.
The resort is linked, so patrons who stay at the hotel will have easy access to the casino and other amenities. Portico and the Sociale are located near the hotel wing of the facility.
Del Lago hired 1,500 employees to work in the casino. An additional 300 employees will be hired to staff the hotel once it opens this summer.
Figures provided to The Citizen show more than 15 percent of del Lago's staff — roughly 230 employees — are from Cayuga County.
The casino held three dealer school sessions to train hundreds of workers who will staff the table games on the gaming floor. More than 240 people successfully completed dealer school, exceeding del Lago's goal of having 200 dealers trained to work at the blackjack, craps, poker and roulette tables.