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Use of Geomatics for Fallsview Casino Construction

Image from Wikimedia Commons: The Fallsview Casino overlooks the Niagara Falls

For almost two decades, the area of Niagara Falls has benefited from the operation of two high-class, brick-and-mortar casinos. Geomatics technology played a part in these construction projects. Thanks to the Casino Niagara and Fallsview Casino, the casino industry in Niagara Falls remains a critical economic driver for the city. However, it is by no means as integral as the city’s breathtaking natural landscape, which people travel from all four corners of the world come to experience. Even further, the construction of the Fallsview Casino, specifically, posed significant geomatic challenges. It’s not hard to see why either when you consider that the plans for the 107-metres-high casino resort overlooked the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls.
The Falls Management Company (FMC) were understandably keen to maximize the majesty and the magnificence of the panoramic view of these landmark waterfalls via all 374 hotel rooms within the resort. Furthermore, the Fallsview Casino Resort was to be more than a casino floor. It was to be jam-packed with entertainment and star-studded shows from the best in the music industry. This diversification was necessary for the Fallsview Casino due to the growing trend among Canadian millennials that prefer playing blackjack and roulette games online given the accessibility and cross-platform capabilities of most leading iGaming platforms, not to mention the fast-emerging live dealer technology.

Fallsview’s Ambitious Construction

Construction for Fallsview Casino kicked off in earnest in 2001, with a brief to retain the walls of the terrace and front entrance of the city’s decommissioned transformer station that had stood for almost a century. They engulfed the area where the transformers generated power from the foot of Horseshoe Falls as part of the resort’s Grand Hall convention halls. The entire project cost an estimated $800 million (CAD), although it’s highly likely that the estimates were a little way out.
With an overall floor space of 2.5 million square feet, this was an ambitious, state-of-the-art entertainment complex, comprising 10 restaurants, a galleria shopping centre, a wedding chapel, exhibition and convention centres and a 1,500-seater theatre, all under one roof.
However, what was even more ambitious was the FMC’s plans to ensure all guests had clear sightlines of the Niagara Falls waterfalls from their hotel rooms. Given the complex’s eventual proximity to these natural waterfalls, the architectural plans would have to be influenced by a string of geomatics surveys and investigations entirely. These were undertaken by  Altus Geomatics, who analysed much of the surrounding geological area. It mapped the steep Murray Hill area as well as provided a geological report of the Oak Ridge Moraine and the nearby land features of the Niagara Escarpment. The incorporation of the decommissioned hydroelectric power plant within the design of the Fallsview Casino also required analysis. The project needed dependable views on the geospatial science of the surrounding area to proceed and allow the project’s architects and designers to meet FMC’s exacting design requirements.

Fallsview Awarded Best Architectural Design by AGA

After some time, the uncertainties became clearer, and the project could complete. The Fallsview Casino opened its doors officially on June 10, 2004, providing 200,000 square feet of casino gaming space. The success of the design and construction of the Fallsview Casino courted praise and awards from within the casino industry. In 2005, the Fallsview Casino received the Best Architectural Design award for casinos, worth over $250 million, at the American Gaming Association (AGA) awards ceremony.
There’s no doubt that the award was richly deserved by the project’s architects, B+H and Zeidler Roberts, who helped infuse a brand-new casino resort around the magnificent Niagara Falls, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Given its location to the cliff edge of Niagara Falls, at the core of the project was the aim of preserving the architectural heritage of Niagara Falls, and boy, did they succeed. The resort itself incorporated a string of landscaping features to complement the Niagara Falls. Even the main entranceway to the casino sees a cascading fountain, with columns of water that shoot 15 feet high into the air.
Fallsview Casino has received the highly-coveted Four Diamond distinction for 12 years running since it opened its doors in 2004, esteem within which this resort holds within the North American hospitality sector, too.

How Geomatics Has Influenced Other Buildings Around Niagara Falls 

A demonstration of the enormity of Niagara Falls’ natural waterfalls.

The Fallsview Casino project has left a lasting impression on Niagara Falls as a region. The use of geomatics helped pave the way for future designs that were sensitive to the architectural landscape of these natural waterfalls. Indeed, the success of the Fallsview Casino gave developers the encouragement to construct even bigger buildings, such as the second tower of the Hilton Niagara Falls, which stands proudly at some 183 meters high.
At the same time, the city of Niagara has keenly raised geospatial awareness among its citizens. Geospatial Niagara is an organization established in January 2013 following a roundtable discussion titled ‘A Path to a Geospatial Economic Sector for the Niagara Region’. This non-profit organization formalized in June 2014 and has since been working to offer the best in geographic education and geospatial technology support. Its remit is to help the citizens of Niagara Falls engage with the city’s geography and enjoy a better understanding of its landscape. One of its most recent projects was one based on Minecraft, with Adriana Ruiz and Bogdan Oros tasked with recreating the landscape of Niagara Falls using Minecraft. The idea behind this was to put the geography of the region into a better context for the next generation, the generation tasked with maintaining these magnificent natural wonders.

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