Barona, Pechanga and Viejas unveil expansions


There’s been a lot of action at three San Diego-area casinos in recent months, and not just on the gaming floor.

Barona Resort & Casino, Pechanga Resort & Casino and Viejas Casino & Resort have completed their multi-million-dollar expansion projects, which offer more places to stay, eat, relax and, of course, gamble.

Ribbon cuttings, opening parties and lots celebratory cheer marked the unveiling of the new hotel towers, spas, pools, restaurants and casino floors.

The additions helped cement the San Diego region as one of the premier casino resort destinations in the country.

Construction work, meanwhile, continues across the county as Pala Casino Resort & Spa, Sycuan Casino and Valley View Casino & Hotel expand as well. The first phase of Pala’s development project, a new pool and outdoor entertainment complex, is scheduled to open on May 19.

Here’s a snapshot of the completed projects.

Barona Resort & Casino

Seemingly the most modest of the three expansions, there’s nothing understated about the size of Barona’s new casino floor.

The vast space, which Barona is calling the Welcome Home area, has 30,000 square feet of non-smoking gaming space, with 540 new slot machines and two table game pits.

When visitors enter from the remodeled parking garage entrance or the exclusive, new Diamond-tier players’ club parking lot, they’ll be greeted by a hand-sculpted and hand-painted oak tree, a culturally significant symbol for the tribe.

A VIP booth serves high rollers without them having to go into the main casino. But even regular guests will be tempted to stay in the Welcome Home area: the newly expanded Barona Coffee Company showcases an array of gourmet pastries and sweets, while the air is perfumed by freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

And in a folksy offering that’s unique to local casinos, a homemade soup outlet serves six kinds of soup to eat in or take home. Among the rotating choices are lobster bisque, albondigas, pho, clam chowder, pasta fagioli, potato leek and more.

Still to come is the return of the popular Barona Banh Mi cart and a larger, relocated Barona General Store.

Pechanga Resort & Casino

The completion of Pechanga’s super-sized, $300-million expansion was marked on March 3 and 4 in an fittingly big way: a weekend’s worth of parties that culminated with fireworks and concerts by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and crooners Boyz II Men.

Now the largest casino resort on the West Coast, Pechanga draws tens of thousands of visitors — a significant portion from San Diego County — to its expansive Temecula property each week.

Here’s some of what they’ll find there:

  • 200,000 square feet of casino space.
  • 1,090 hotel rooms and suites, 568 of them in a gleaming new tower. Pechanga’s hotel holds an AAA Four Diamond status.
  • 25,000-square-foot, stunning, two-story, stand-alone luxury spa, with a yoga studio and fitness center.
  • 20 restaurants and bars, including the Lobby Bar & Grill, an elevated California bistro.
  • 15 pools and spas, most notably the new 4½-acre pool complex, The Cove.
  • Six retail shops, including the only boutique in Temecula that carries such upscale designer brands as Versace and Gucci.

Viejas Casino & Resort

The Champagne was flowing for the Feb. 1 grand opening of Vieja’s Willows Hotel & Spa, an adults-only, all-suites luxury resort-within-a-resort.

A premium was put on the design of the 159-room hotel, which is to be expected at California’s only Forbes 4-Star and AAA 4-Diamond casino hotel.

Willows has its own entrance, check-in and private, saltwater pool. Among the amenities in each suite is an Alexa personal digital concierge, from which guests can order room service, request more towels or make a restaurant reservation.

In addition to added casino floor square footage, Viejas has also debuted Locale Kitchen & Lounge, a contemporary, farm-centric restaurant and the pan-Asian Ginger Noodle Bar.

The posh, new Willows Spa features a salt-water spa pool, a spa garden, salt sauna, steam room, a hair and nail salon, 24-hour fitness center and two outdoor spa cabanas where treatments can be enjoyed.