Sundt Building and Concrete “a Well-Oiled Machine” at Gila River Hotels & Casinos – Wild Horse Pass Expansion

 |  Building, Safety, Self-perform

As the sun rises over the Superstition Mountains and lights up the East Valley, most of Phoenix is just getting out of bed and firing up their coffee machines. At Wild Horse Pass, things have been brewing for a while—a flurry of construction activity is already under way.

A (digital) site walk in July takes viewers through different areas of construction at Wild Horse Pass. Senior Project Manager Rob Kobierowski and superintendents on site explain best practices in concrete, site logistics, and construction mock-ups to ensure quality and save time and money.

Crews here are busy building a 205-room hotel tower, a 43,000-square-foot conference center, two beautiful new pools, and rooftop restaurant and lounge, among other exciting additions and improvements. Everything is on track to finish next fall when the expanded facilities will offer guests a new level of style, comfort and fun. For now, a whole lot of skill and grit are at work to make that luxury come to life.

When You Come Prepared, the Odds Are in Your Favor

It’s been said before: success is where preparation and opportunity meet. Part of our team’s success in reaching—and in some cases, exceeding—project milestones at Wild Horse Pass has come from our preparation and ability to adapt. According to Project Executive Mike Nunn, the pandemic presented challenges that nobody would have wished for, but it came with small silver linings that we’ve been able to take advantage of.

“The closures earlier this year let us start a couple weeks sooner on the pool complex and casino renovations,” said Mike. “Also, without having to work around guests during that time, we basically had 24-7 access and made huge gains on certain scopes.” Inside the casino, these included re-painting all the ceilings and soffits, re-carpeting the floors, and converting all light fixtures to energy-saving LED. The unexpected schedule boost allowed us to perform other new scopes of work as well, and overall, our team saved about a month and a half of time.

Drone video captured in early October shows what will be the new conference center and pool areas, as well as the new 11-story, 205-room tower with the existing 10-story Wild Horse Pass hotel tower and casino in the background. 

Another difference-maker has been the performance of Sundt’s Concrete Division. According to Mike, “They’re running like a well-oiled machine. They’re actually beating their own schedule by a couple days per floor going up the hotel tower.” Structure drives schedule, Mike pointed out. As concrete goes vertical, it opens up space for the trades on floors below. “We already have interior framing going in. So, the concrete work has really helped us in terms of schedule. And between the two groups, we operate as one team; having the ability to self-perform removes that tension and delay in communication you sometimes see when subbing this work out.”

Control, Predictability in an Era When Both Are in Short Supply

With so many moving parts and pieces spread out across the site, having control over the schedule offers added benefits. “We’re able to manage all of those question marks and variables that can get activities off track,” said Senior Project Manager Rob Kobierowski. “That includes areas like quality and safety. Since the start of the project, Sundt has had zero safety incidents—that’s over 240 days with our concrete team operating incident-free.”

Aerial progress images show the new conference center (left) and pool areas (center-left), as well as the in-progress 205-room tower (center-right) adjacent to the existing Gila River Hotels & Casinos- Wild Horse Pass, which is currently open to guests.
Aerial progress images show the new conference center (left) and pool areas (center-left), as well as the in-progress 205-room tower (center-right) adjacent to the existing Gila River Hotels & Casinos- Wild Horse Pass, which is currently open to guests.

Creating predictable outcomes for our client often comes down to experience and team chemistry. At all levels of Sundt’s Wild Horse Pass team, there’s a deep level of camaraderie and shared work history with these kinds of projects. Rob, Mike, and fellow employee-owners including Preconstruction Project Manager Duane Miles and General Superintendent Mike Jackson have all worked together on multiple hotels and casinos across the valley.

That combined knowledge adds up fast, according to Rob. “We can take everything that made those projects successful—including our most recent project with the Harrah’s Ak-Chin expansion—and carry that knowledge forward to create even more value on this project. Continuous improvement is just as much about building people as it is about building process.”

As the new expansions and renovations at Wild Horse Pass take shape, hotel owners and the Gila River Indian Community are pleased with the project’s results thus far, and eagerly await the grand opening next fall. “This expansion is a major investment in the Gila River Indian Community and symbolic of a new chapter in our history,” said Gila River Hotels & Casinos CEO Kenneth Manuel. “It reflects our commitment to be a leader in the gaming and hospitality industry through enhanced experiences and amenities, and we look forward to seeing the continued representation of our community’s culture in the expansion project.”