GIla River Santan Mountain Casino



Submitted By: The PENTA Building Group

Owner: Gila River Indian Community

Lead Design Firm: Steelman Partners

General Contractor: The PENTA Building Group

Civil Engineer: Dibble

Structural Engineer: Desimone Consulting Engineers

MEP Engineer: FEA Consulting Engineers

Santan Mountain, Gila River Resorts’ newest casino, offers a variety of gambling machines and table games, specialty restaurants and a 7,000-sq-ft BetMGM sportsbook that is the largest in the state of Arizona.

The casino was designed as an all-encompassing entertainment experience for guests and is inspired by the culture of the Gila River Indian community. It includes a three restaurant food court as well as an extravagant event lawn and ballroom. 

The project team from PENTA Building Group had to overcome a variety of challenges throughout the effort, which completed on time and below budget in March 2023. One of those challenges was long lead times on large equipment, including mechanical and electrical objects, leading crews to come up with creative ideas to condition the building so work could progress.

Also, PENTA did not receive access to utilities until later on in construction, requiring the team to be proactive in establishing different temporary solutions to allow for start-up and commissioning of systems to begin, rather than waiting for the utilities.

Manpower was another challenge with large construction projects in progress throughout the Phoenix market, leading the project team to implement various compensation plans to help encourage weekend and overtime work to complete the casino. And, toward the end of construction, the Arizona weather became an issue, with an increase in rain during paving of parking lots requiring numerous meetings with Geotech Engineers to come up with creative ways to mitigate the water and allow construction to continue on track. The project logged 510,000 work hours with no recordable cases, zero lost-time accidents and an OSHA recordable incident rate of zero.

GIla River Santan Mountain Casino

Photo courtesy The Penta Building Group

Among the top casinos in Phoenix, Santan Mountain worked to elevate industry standards in a number of ways, including the use of self-tinting glass, which is tied in with low-voltage wires and connected to a sensor placed on the roof. When the sun comes out, several thousand sq ft of glass begins to tint. And in order to maintain a bright and spacious atmosphere, the casino features large-scale windows to let in natural light. Design touches inspired by the Gila River Indian community include colors associated with the cardinal directions and art from local artists, including works based on the tribe’s districts.

Quality and craftsmanship were incredibly important on the project, which is saturated with high-end finishes and details not found in the typical casino. Pre-installation meetings were held with every subcontractor to review necessary details prior to any contractor walking on site, and numerous mock-ups were created to ensure subcontractors had the correct  equipment. Close coordination with electrical and plumbing subcontractors ensured proper fits of all their equipment as well. Complex lighting was fit into exterior metal panels, requiring precision of fit for not only proper lighting but proper weatherproofing as well. 

The high-end casino that resulted from that hard and meticulous work is a sleek and inviting facility inspired by its community and environment. 

GIla River Santan Mountain Casino

Photo courtesy The Penta Building Group