First Look: Pechanga Resort Casino’s Expansion Brings New Landscape

TEMECULA, CA—Pechanga Resort Casino, a four-diamond casino resort on the West Coast, has grown by leaps and bounds after the completion of a 27-month, $300-million dollar expansion with landscaping led by Lifescapes International. Why go bigger? For the owners and operators—the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians—the primary goal was to create an environment that would deliver a premier guest experience and set itself apart in the industry.

The resort’s growth is significant, resulting in a nearly doubled room capacity to 1,090, expanded spa facility to 25,000 sq. ft., a 40,000-sq.-ft. events center, and a new 4.5-acre tropical pool complex that houses a restaurant, swim-up bar, three pools, two waterslides, a fountain and 27 cabanas.

For this game-changing transformation, the team at Pechanga selected Lifescapes International for their strong experience in designing the landscape environments for some of Las Vegas’ most iconic casino resorts such as Bellagio Resort & Casino and the Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa, among others. Roger Voettiner, VP of design at Lifescapes International, noted that the company has designed 15 casinos on the Las Vegas Strip and more than 30 hotels in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Pechanga Resort Casino's Cove main pool.
Pechanga Resort Casino’s Cove main pool.

“Pechanga wanted to bring that same entertainment-driven experience and Las Vegas flair that draws millions of people to the Las Vegas Strip each year, which is exactly what we did,” said Voettiner. “We created a luxurious atmosphere comprised of multiple pools, poolside dining areas and a swim-up bar, Whirlpool spas, spacious event lawns, intimate dining patios, a green roof garden and Zen space, and a variety of lush, cultural-inspired gardens throughout the property. All of these elements contribute to delivering that ultimate guest experience, providing guests with options for both relaxation and entertainment.”

As with any project, there can be bumps along the way but the team at Lifescapes was able to overcome these hurdles to achieve their desired outcome. Part of that meant paying reverence to elements of the local culture. A challenge arose during the design phase, Voettiner noted, when they realized that several existing Oak trees with up to 60-in.-wide canopies had to be moved to accommodate the expansion.

“The Oak trees are sacred to the Pechanga people as they are representative of their history and early survival as a tribe. Early on, the Pechanga community used canopies for shelter and the acorns, a product of the Oak tree, for sustenance. These indigenous trees have remained a sacred element of their community ever since,” said Voettiner. “We wanted to preserve the sanctity of these existing trees and worked with the tribe on preserving a lot of the native plant materials. We carefully relocated a total of 18 Oak trees, placing them throughout the grounds. Uprooting these large specimen trees and relocating each one of them individually throughout the property was certainly a challenge, but one that we are proud to stay we did as it honors and respects the heritage of the Pechanga people.”

Pechanga Resort Casino's Cove Bar & Grill.
Pechanga Resort Casino’s Cove Bar & Grill.

A desert climate can pose a different set of needs. Lifescapes took into account the locale, including the type of soil and plants required to create a green oasis. The result is a mix of lush greenery along with sustainable plant materials.

“The Pechanga team was looking for a resort-style, entertainment-focused design that would ultimately draw guests and tourists, as well as provide long-term sustainability in the region’s desert climate. While the vast area of the planting design contained sustainable plant materials, we concentrated some lush plant materials where they made the most impact, at the pool, event lawn and some on entry drive,” said Al Amador, senior principal, landscape architect and project designer, Lifescapes International.

Amador added, “We created a careful balance between drought-tolerant plant materials and lush garden elements to ensure both the long-term success of the design, as well as deliver that inviting environment guests’ demand. All of the roof deck plants are drought-tolerant and 60% of the remaining plants throughout the entire project are drought-tolerant. Our ability to deliver an environment that infuses both elements together resulted in an energy-efficient, healthy landscape that guests can enjoy regardless of local weather conditions. We also preserved and relocated as many of the existing trees on the property as possible, especially the sacred oak trees, which provided sustenance to the tribe for hundreds of years.”

Among the many project highlights, Voettiner singled out the five new pools and the fourth floor green roof and garden as most notable.

“The expansive pool area features poolside dinning and a swim up bar, a family pool with a slide and beach entry, four whirlpool spas, one of which features a rock waterfall feature. The pools are surrounded by lush landscaping and private cabanas that create a seamless separation between the pool area and the event lawn,” said Voettiner. “The one-of-a-kind event lawn is also a unique feature at the property. It serves as an added revenue stream for the casino resort, well as an entertainment complex for guests. The event lawn is strategically designed with the capacity to host concerts, mixed martial arts and boxing matches, or serve as a wedding venue.”

One of the numerous pools at Pechanga Resort Casino.
One of the numerous pools at Pechanga Resort Casino.

The success of any project rests upon having a strong vision and design thinking. At Lifescapes International, the team follows this philosophy: “We create gardens people love.” According to Amador, it is the mantra that drives the inspiration for all that they do.

“We truly believe that there is a direct link between the physical beauty of a space and building that emotional connection that draw guests in and keeps them coming back time and time again. Therefore, with all of our designs, we incorporate beautiful gardens combined with endless opportunities for socialization and connection,” said Amador. “Our inspiration comes from a variety of different elements and varies per project. For this particular project, our inspiration was the flair of casino resorts across the Las Vegas Strip combined with the Pechanga people, their history, and their rich culture.”