Mashantucket - While blasting for the $115 million Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods is making a lot of noise lately - it starts around 2 p.m. most days - plenty else is happening at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe's resort casino, which is in the midst of two other construction projects.
A $23 million renovation of rooms in the Grand Pequot tower and a $15 million makeover of food-and-beverage and retail in Foxwoods' concourse area began this spring.
Chris O'Connell, vice president of development and resort services, led reporters on a tour Thursday. He said the "monumental task" of renovating 785 Grand Pequot rooms, including 86 suites, is about 50 percent complete. Begun in April, the work is to be finished by next May.
All the old paint, wallpaper, carpeting, furniture and fixtures are being replaced.
O'Connell said a room that has yet to be renovated had a "1990 feel about it." A renovated room, on the other hand, features closet space instead of armoires, bright lighting in the bathrooms and "outlets all over the place." Night lights are activated by motion sensors and towels are stowed on shelves beneath the sink, eliminating the need for wall-mounted bars and racks.
The white counters and tabletops of crystallized glass are resistant to stain, O'Connell said, be it by mustard, relish, lipstick or ink.
In redesigning the concourse area, Foxwoods is seeking to replace the small-town New England motif that's been in place for 20 years with a more contemporary approach, according to Jens Baake, vice president of food and beverage.
"Our team went out on the (Mashantucket Pequot) reservation and took its inspiration from the land," he said. "It was clear the design had to be linked to nature. … The window space was an opportunity for our guests to see what's around them."
The concourse's food court - an area now hidden behind wallboard and curtains - will include a Starbucks, Regina Pizzeria, Pequot Bay Seafood and Fox Deli. Cedars Restaurant and Bar, a Foxwoods fixture, was renovated during the initial phase of the project.
Retail improvements on the concourse will pare a dozen stores to nine, including Panache, which has been relocated from MGM Grand at Foxwoods; Follie Follie, a new outlet offering jewelry and other accessories; and a yet-to-be-named sweets shop.
"The challenge was to offer something new without alienating our loyal customers," Annette DeBois, vice president of retail development and operations, said. "We've taken out all the kiosks and created big glass facades."
She said the concourse shops tilt toward key brands and gift categories rather than apparel, since that's what's coming in the Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods. That project, to include some 80 stores, will link the Grand Pequot Tower and the soon-to-be-renamed MGM Grand. It's expected to open in early 2015.
Standard Builders of Newington is the general contractor for the hotel renovations and the outlet mall. A/Z Corp. of North Stonington is the general contractor for the retail and food-and-beverage renovations.