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Project Forward a Winning Wager for the Ho-Chunk Nation

As the sash fluttered to the floor at today’s ribbon cutting for the Porte Cochere and Veteran’s Memorial Park at Ho-Chunk Gaming’s Black River Falls, it marked the conclusion of the Ho-Chunk Nation’s ambitious $163 million, three-casino renovation and expansion program.

Project Forward, as the program is known, offers guests an enhanced experience while generating a positive and lasting economic impact for the community. “This was a two-year targeted investment that will produce significant benefits for everyone,” said Harry Corken, Project Manager for Hill International, which provided program management oversight, owner’s representation, and construction support services for the entire program. “The Ho-Chunk Nation has upgraded its facilities and offerings at these three locations to provide guests with state-of-the-art technology and gaming options, as well as the latest and greatest creature comforts.”

In addition, Corken lauded the program’s economic improvements. “Project Forward will lead to hundreds of new jobs,” he explained, “as well as increased and improved revenue streams for the Ho-Chunk Nation. It’s a cliché, but in this case it’s absolutely true: this program is a win-win for all involved.”

Project Forward upgrades three of the Ho-Chunk Nation’s six Wisconsin gaming properties – Black River Falls, Wittenberg, and Wisconsin Dells. The projects included renovating and expanding gaming floors and hotels; adding new hotel space, restaurants, and retail shops; facade and grounds modernizations; and utility, security, and infrastructure improvements.

“This program ran the gamut of services, from the flowerbeds to the rooftops,” Corken said. “While each facility necessitated individual care and planning, Hill was able to provide a one-stop shop for all three projects. Hill’s depth of in-house expertise led directly to cost and time savings without sacrificing quality.”

At Black River Falls, work entailed the addition of 123 new rooms to the hotel and two Porte Cochere – covered entrances large enough for vehicles to pass through – at the main entrance and west side entrance. The 12,000 SF bingo hall, dynamic circular reception and lobby area, and the exterior building façade underwent significant renovations as well, while the gaming floor was expanded to include more than 600 additional slot machines.

The project also included several transportation-related upgrades, such as new roadways for improved access and mobility, a new high-capacity loading dock, and additional parking. The Black River Falls facility’s exterior also enjoyed a comprehensive landscaping makeover, including the new Veterans Memorial Gardens.

“There were a number of additional miscellaneous improvements and upgrades,” Corken said, citing security offices, cage payout areas, offices, and eateries. “In a gaming environment, sometimes it’s the attention to detail of these specialized spaces that really makes a difference in helping operations run smoothly.”

At Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg, the highlights of $38 million renovation included a new 86-room, 5-story hotel and the River’s Edge: an 80-seat, 3-meal restaurant. The project also included renovations to Forest Edge Snack Bar, the high stakes game rooms, and an expanded gaming floor.

Said Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg Executive Manager Fletcher Collins, “It is exciting to see Project Forward come to fruition for the Wittenberg community. We are thankful to the Ho-Chunk Nation for providing an updated facility with enhanced amenities. We look forward to offering an improved gaming experience for our guests.”

At Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells, the $50 million project featured a new bingo hall, buffet, and grill, in addition to smoke-free and VIP gaming areas. The refurbished hotel lobby includes a new main entrance, gift shop, elevators, and new furniture and decor.

“The new facilities, renovations, and improvements provide guests and visitors with the best experience possible,” Corken said. “What might not be as obvious is the hundreds of jobs created due to this program. These new jobs will help support families in these three communities for years to come.”

For more information, please contact Harry Corken at [email protected]