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Harrah’s Ak-Chin

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As Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino continues its multi-million-dollar expansion, it has opened The Spa.

The business within the complex offers massage, waxing and facial treatments and a full-service nail salon. Its grand opening was announced Tuesday.

“Our customers have told us over the years that one of the amenities that they would like to see on property is a full-service spa,” said Robert Livingston, general manager and regional president of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino. “We are excited to bring this luxury experience not only to our guests but to local visitors as well.”

The spa features four treatment rooms including one couple’s suite.  Features include adjustable beds, complimentary LED Light Therapy in each treatment room, a dedicated Esthetics Room with back bar feature, and the Signature Hungarian Face Massage. The spa uses Eminence and Farmhouse Fresh treatments.

The Spa at Harrah’s Ak-Chin is open Monday–Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Reservations are required at 480-802-3340.

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From left: Robert Livingston, regional vice president and general manager, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino; Ann Marie Antone, Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council, Vice-Chairman Gabriel Lopez, Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council; Alvin Antone, Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council and Adam Saks, president & chief operating officer, UltraStar Multi-Tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle.

 

When the Ak-Chin Indian Community completed construction on the UltraStar Multi-Tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle in 2012, the best options to get from there to Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino was to walk through the adjoining parking lot or hop on a shuttle bus between the two locations.

With today’s opening of the Ak-Chin Circle Pedestrian Bridge, guests can easily walk between the two properties, getting a bird’s eye view of the Ak-Chin Community along the way.  The 180-foot-long air conditioned walkway connects the two properties.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar expansion that includes more than 200 guest rooms bringing the total to more than 500, a spa, a conference center with increased ballroom space, additional restaurants and a multi-level parking structure.  Nelson Partners served as the architect, Sundt/Yates Joint Venture as the general contractor for the pedestrian walkway.

“Many of our guests enjoy the entertainment and dining options at both Harrah’s Ak-Chin and Ultra-Star. This pedestrian walkway will now make it even easier to get from one place to the other and in air-conditioned comfort,” said Robert Livingston, regional president and general manager.

Paula Powers (left) and Terri Robinson said it is important to find support at work and other outlets besides family during the fight against cancer. Photo by Mason Callejas

Twelve percent of American women will suffer from breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. That’s one in eight.

Though modern treatment has improved the survival rate of most patients to better than 70 percent in the worst cases and near 100 percent in the best cases, the affliction still takes its toll on those diagnosed, and their loved ones.

Now, as the country celebrates Breast Cancer Awareness Month this month, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino once again rolled out its support for those affected by cancer by hosting events such as their annual Battle of the Bras, and by raising money for cancer research.

However, Harrah’s does more than just support the greater cause, cancer survivor and casino employee Paula “Princess” Powers said.

With nearly 30 percent of the casino’s employees having been diagnosed with cancer at one point or the other, she said, there is a unique network to tap into. Often times, relying on close family and friends as your sole support system can be trying.

“Family is not your [main] support system,” Powers said. “They are, but it’s probably harder on them than it is on you.”

That’s why she and so many others offer support at work, she said.

Powers has been a Harrah’s employee for roughly 10 years. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2012, one week before Thanksgiving. Only six months later, in April 2013, she was declared to be in remission, but that wasn’t the end of it for her, she said.

Now she helps wherever she can.

Paula “Princess” Powers. Phot o by Mason Callejas

Not only does the casino itself provide help to the employees through their collective support, but it also sometimes helps minimize the financial fallout that comes with a cancer diagnosis.

Per their website, the Harrah’s Employee Assistance Relief Trust, or HEART fund, “is designed to provide financial assistance to team members who face an unforeseen crisis, which results in financial hardship.”

One of the recipients of the HEART fund, casino employee Terri Robinson, said the program quickly provided financial assistance that helped her afford the costly drugs used to treat cancer.

“I was told to apply, and it was like that day, or the next morning that I had [their] help,” Robinson said. “In my case, it helped with medical bills and helped start my chemo treatment again.”

Robinson has been a Harrah’s employee for just over three years. Less than a year after coming on board in 2015, she said, she was diagnosed. In February of this year she was finally declared to be in remission.

Having access to a great support network among her co-workers, and surprisingly even some of the guests, has helped tremendously, she said.

“One day, out of the blue, [a guest] asked if I was a survivor, and this was partially covered,” Robinson said as she pointed at the pink ribbon and butterfly tattoo she has on her forearm. “It’s just amazing, the support.”

Terri Robinson. Photo by Mason Callejas

As of the publication of this article, Robinson was awaiting the result of another test which could unfortunately show her cancer has returned. Regardless of the results, she said, she will press on.

“It’s hard to be positive sometimes,” Robinson said. “Princess always asks how I’m doing, or says, ‘Hang in there,’ so when you have somebody else fighting the fight, it helps.”

Both Robinson and Powers said it’s important to not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. But, they said, the No. 1 thing that has helped them was staying positive.

“You have to stay positive,” Powers said. “The slightest amount of negativity and you could fall off.”

Terri Robinson’s cancer-survivor tattoo. Photo by Mason Callejas

Photo by Mason Callejas

As Phase 1 construction of a multi-million-dollar expansion nears completion this fall, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino is planning a job fair in August to fill new positions.

IF YOU GO
What: Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Job Fair
When: Aug. 10, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Where: Central Arizona College – Maricopa, 17945 N. Regent Drive
Info: Caesars.com/Harrahs-Ak-Chin

 

Talent Specialist Jamie Westmiller said the facility will be hiring 50-75 people, about half of them full-time.

“They will be mostly hospitality positions with a few security positions mixed in,” he said.

Available positions include cooks, food servers, host/cashiers, housekeeping, facilities maintenance, restaurant supervisor and beverage supervisor. All positions have a 401K, Westmiller said. Full-time positions get heath care, dental and vision.

Westmiller said Ak-Chin Indian Community members will get preference. Because the job fair will have on-site interviews and on-site hiring, potential applicants are asked to fill out an application online at www.caesars.com/harrahs-ak-chin before arriving at the job fair.

And be prepared to turn on the charm.

“We always hire for personality and train for skills,” General Manager Robert Livingston said. “We’re looking for upbeat, positive energy.”

Phase 1 includes the new restaurant and wine bar Oak & Fork. Livingston said those hired to work there will need to be passionate about wine and educating customers about wine, though the restaurant will “not be a snooty place.”

The current construction involves “basically everything to the north,” Livingston said. That includes a parking garage, 18,000-square-foot ballroom, expansion of the casino floor, expansion of the buffet into the space now occupied by The Range Steakhouse, dedicated Diamond Lounge, upstairs BINGO hall and other changes for office space.

Separately but simultaneously, Ak-Chin Indian Community is constructing an elevated walkway linking the casino property to UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. Ak-Chin is working with Arizona Department of Transportation to move the traffic light north to Ak-Chin Parkway, to make that the main entry to the casino and hotel.

Next year, Phase II will include the hotel tower that adds another 230 rooms to the 300 existing, a new restaurant called Chop Block & Brew and a spa and fitness center. Late in 2018 will be the beginning of the renovation of the pool and resort rooms around it.

While the construction has been inconvenient or confusing for some long-time customers, Livingston said they’ve enjoyed the portholes cut into the temporary walkway walls that provide a view of the construction.

“It’s going to be a great addition to Maricopa and the whole of Pinal County,” he said. “We’re running short on rooms right now, and this will allow us to expand on what we do.”

 Westmiller said a second job fair is planned later in the year.

Photo by Mason Callejas

This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

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Submitted photo

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino has been awarded second place in the Caesars Entertainment CodeGreen Challenge. This marks the third consecutive CodeGreen award for the casino.

CodeGreen was initiated by Caesars Entertainment in 2008 and is an organization-wide strategy to drive environmental awareness and engagement, as well as performance across the business. Each Caesars’ location creates a plan targeting the goals they wish to achieve throughout the year, which culminates during the month of April.

“We are so happy to have yet again placed in the Caesars Entertainment CodeGreen Challenge,” said April Stovall, surveillance and facilities manager and Harrah’s property CodeGreen leader. “The competition is always neck-and-neck, but I firmly believe that our efforts stood out. We had more than two-thirds of our 750 team members participate during the challenge in an effort to make Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and the surrounding community the greenest of all.”

One of Harrah’s Ak-Chin’s big projects this year was to ensure that the planned demolition of its bingo hall didn’t create waste. In order to reach this goal, team members coordinated the donation of tables and chairs, recycling more than 51,000 pounds of items.

In addition to this project, Harrah’s put on a number of volunteer-driven programs to increase awareness of the importance of going green. On property CodeGreen initiatives included:

·         Hosting an environmentally conscious “Earth Hour” event where the casino  turned off non-essential exterior lights and invited the community out to learn more about light pollution

·         Coordinating an Adopt-a-Highway cleanup with  more than 40 volunteers participating

·         Collecting 3,503 pieces of clothing during its clothing drive, all of which they donated to local nonprofit, Against Abuse, Inc.

·         Hosting a huge Earth Day celebration in partnership with the Ak-Chin Indian Community. This event included sharing a CodeGreen breakfast and educating people on all things green. The casino took first place in the booth display contest by drawing attendees in with its bicycle-powered slot machine.

 

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has been entertaining for 23 years and sold over 2 million albums. They will be in Maricopa Oct. 28.

When swing-style music made a comeback in the mid-1990s, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was on the frontlines. With a modern take on the Big Band sound of the ‘40s and a memorable name, the band hit at the right time, but they did not just ride the wave of a passing fad.

If You Go
Who: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
When: Oct. 28, 8 p.m.
Where: The Lounge at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, 15406 N. Maricopa Road
How much: Free
Info: Caesars.com/Harrahs-Ak-Chin

Drummer Kurt Sodergren, who co-founded the band with lead vocalist/songwriter Scotty Morris, said they started the conversation in the late ‘90s to orchestrate BBVD’s approach to longevity if and when the retro swing craze passed.

“We knew our fan base wasn’t fickle, and we always reach out in the meet-and-greets after shows,” Sodergren said. “Our music makes them happy and keeps them coming back.”

BBVD has also branched out, performing with symphonies and in performing arts settings.

To keep their hardcore fans and create new ones, the band has the motto of “Yes.” They accept most invitations to perform that they can fit in their schedule of 150 shows a year.

“We’re trying to play in a lot of new venues,” Sodergren said.

That now includes Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, where Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will be playing in The Lounge on Oct. 28 at 8 p.m.

Morris, who has a lifelong love of swing and jazz and plays a mean blues guitar, originally started the band in 1989. He named it for a signature he received from guitar legend Albert Collins, whose autograph included the phrase “To Scotty, the big bad voodoo daddy.”

After Morris joined forces with Sodergren, BBVD was re-launched in 1993 in Ventura, California. They were part of an underground swing movement in the Los Angeles area, where they called the Derby nightclub home.

Sondergren, originally from Pontiac, Michigan, mainly grew up in Ventura. His grandfather was a saxophonist in big bands in the ‘40s, including with the U.S. Army during World War II. Kurt’s father had an impressive record collection that exposed young Kurt to the bands of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

 

He started playing drums with the school band because “it was the only thing that wasn’t being played.”

After hearing the Benny Goodman Orchestra’s renowned 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall, Sodergren was floored by Gene Krupa’s work on the drums. “They didn’t even need to have the music,” he said.

Krupa always remains an influence, as do others like John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, who himself was influenced by Big Band-era drummers.

The deep well of swing and jazz comprehension from Morris and Sodergren combined with the classical training of their bandmates gave BBVD a well-balanced attack.

With its music highlighted in the cult film Swingers, BBVD leaped onto the national stage in 1996. At the same time, bands like Flying Neutrinos, Squirrel Nut Zippers and the ska band Cherry Poppin’ Daddies were using a retro sound on the rising tide of neo swing.

BBVD parlayed that into more than 2 million album sales, starting with their eponymous album in 1994. Sodergren said they have finished recording their 10th studio album, a tribute to the music of Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan and Louis Prima. It is due out next year.

The touring band is filled out by Joshua Levy on piano, Antony Bonsera on lead trumpet, Dirk Shumaker on bass, Glen “The Kid” Marhevka on trumpet, Karl Hunter on tenor, alto and soprano saxophones and clarinet, Andy Rowley on baritone sax and Alex Henderson on trombone.

They make a point of staying after a performance to meet with the crowd.

“We have really friendly guys in the band who are fun to hang out with,” Sodergren said.

Battle of the Bras part of month-long effort

Battle of the Bras returns at Harrah's Ak-Chin as part of a very pink month to fight breast cancer. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

By Sara Goodwin

Each year in October, the color pink pops up all over the country in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a month-long observance for a disease that affects one in eight American women.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino again plans to go above and beyond.

“Pink is the color of hope, strength and support for those diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Robert Livingston, general manager at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino. “Our participation in the annual breast cancer awareness campaign is something we are known for, and we are so proud of what we have accomplished over the last several years,”

Pink will be the color of the month. Throughout October guests will see employees donning their own pink apparel and even pink hair. And on Thursdays, guests are encouraged to wear pink.

The casino will host the Pink Pool Party for the third year in a row on Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. Of course, the highlight of the party will be the Battle of the Bras fashion show. Each casino department will be able to design a bra for a male manager or supervisor to model at the party.

Picture yourself in pink with Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino’s selfie booth located in the hotel lobby near the entrance to the pool throughout the month.

Harrah's Ak-Chin employees at a "pink" bake sale. Submitted
Harrah’s Ak-Chin employees at a “pink” bake sale. Submitted

“We are honored to have this opportunity for our guests and employees to get pink and get involved to support such a worthy cause,” said Christine Todd, Harrah’s Development Systems program manager at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.

www.harrahsakchin.com


This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

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Robert Livingston

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino announced that Robert Livingston, the property’s general manager, is adding a title to his name. Livingston will now also serve as regional president, overseeing operations of both Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino in Maricopa and Harrah’s Resort Southern California, just outside of San Diego.

 

Livingston has been with the Caesars family for 25 years, having begun his career with Caesars Entertainment in 1991 as a senior corporate accountant at the corporate headquarters in Memphis. He held several finance and operational roles throughout the Central Division of Caesars for the first half of his career before moving west in 2003. He served as vice president and assistant general manager at Harrah’s Rincon (now Harrah’s Resort Southern California) before being promoted to general manager and transferring to Harrah’s Ak-Chin in 2011.

 

Livingston’s appointment comes on the heels of the announcement that Janet Beronio, Harrah’s longtime regional president and general manager for Harrah’s Resort Southern California and Harrah’s Ak-Chin, announced her retirement.

 

Livingston holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from the University of Mississippi.

 

Livingston is a resident of Ahwatukee.

Unveiled early in the life of Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino, the "Desert Oasis" sculpture was lowered Friday afternoon.

One of the consequences of expansion plans at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino was the removal of the iconic sculpture that has graced the front of the casino since 1999.

 

But it’s only a temporary situation.

 

“Desert Oasis,” created by the late Snell Johnson (he died in 2001), the work was 51 feet tall. The main feature was a symbolic eagle, wings spread out to 35 feet, atop a saguaro. But the work also involves five human figures, also cast in bronze.

 

The sculpture will be put in storage until near the end of new construction. As work begins on the north end of the casino, that self-parking lot will be fenced off, and buses will let passengers off in the area once occupied by “Desert Oasis,” according to General Manager Robert Livingston.

 

That will start mid-September and last for about a year. All self-parking will move the southeast side in front of the hotel. The lot was recently paved. As construction starts, there will also be a tunnel for safe access starting sometime in October.

 

Meanwhile, “Desert Oasis” has been packed away. The human figures went first. Then construction workers used two cranes to lift the saguaro and eagle, swing it down to horizontal and load it onto a truck bed.

Saturday, 23 employees from Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, employees from UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle and members of the local media rocked the runway in decorated bras at the Battle of the Bras Fashion Show as part of the Pink Pool Party.

To raise awareness for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, each casino department crafted and created a bra to represent their team. This year’s bras were decorated with candy, beads, poker chips, playing cards, rhinestones and glitter.

Participants entertained the crowd of more than 300 with catwalk performances including a light saber battle between Princess Leia and Darth Vader and Clark Kent transforming into Superman from a phone booth. Michael Cookmeyer from the casino host team took home first place with his Superman depiction.

The Pink Pool Party and Battle of the Bras are just a few of the pink activities held by Harrah’s Ak-Chin during the month of October including pink casino tables, pink food dishes, and pink decorations throughout the casino.

See more photos of the event in the Community section of our Galleries at InMaricopa.com/Photos.

Sauteed lobster in vanilla vodka sauce

To honor his mother during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Executive Chef Colin Ribble of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Resort shares his recipe for sautéed lobster in vanilla vodka sauce.

“It’s something my mother would eat, something that’s done for my mother,” Ribble said.

Ribble’s mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. He has been beside her through the whole process, cooked for her and helped shave her head even as he shaved his own.

“I would go over and make dinner for my mom, so it was one thing she didn’t have to worry about,” he said. “Food was always something that connected us.”

Lobster in a Vanilla Vodka Sauce, by Chef Colin Ribble

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot minced
2 tablespoons capers
½ cup vanilla vodka
1 raw lobster tail, cut into small pieces
½ cup plum tomatoes
½ cup heavy cream
sea salt to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
French Baguette Sliced and grilled

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan (12-14 inches). Stir in the red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute over medium heat. Add the garlic/shallots and cook until soft. Stir in the capers and cook 1 minute longer. Raise the heat to medium high and add the vodka; allow most of it to evaporate. Stir in the lobster and lower the heat to medium. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Slowly pour in the cream along the side of the pan and cook over low heat for an additional 5 minutes.

Terri Robinson of Maricopa is in the middle of her own fight against breast cancer. She is also on the Breast Cancer Awareness Committee at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino. Contributed photo

Terri Robinson suspected she had breast cancer before she started her new job.

“Two or three months prior to being hired, I felt a lump,” Robinson said. “I went totally into denial.”

Only when a swollen lymph node “popped out” on her neck did she finally seek medical attention. In June, two months after she was hired as a cashier for Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, doctors diagnosed what she had known all along.

“It was an extreme, stage-three carcinoma,” Robinson said.

Because she had ignored other signs something was wrong – like pains in her arm and her left breast – she was not completely surprised. But she was scared.

“It was the most extreme emotional roller coaster I have ever been on,” she said.

After the reality of cancer, her secondary fright was telling her new bosses about her medical situation. She had just started training.

“They have been very, very supportive,” she said. “I’ve missed three or four days because I was sick. I was sent home once because I was sick. Not just my supervisor but my boss’s boss, everyone in the casino if very supportive. They’re always asking how I’m doing. They are very, very big into Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

Christine Todd, community relations manager with Harrah’s Ak-Chin, brought Robinson onto the casino’s Breast Cancer Awareness Committee, which organizes “pink” events for October.

“She’s amazingly strong,” Todd said. “She is using her story to spread the word about breast cancer and getting checkups.”

“I’m a fighter,” Robinson said.

Within three weeks of being diagnosed, Robinson was on medium doses of chemotherapy. Her routine has been two weeks on and one week off.

“I’ve had it kind of easy with the medium dose,” she said. “It’s not the highest. It’s not the Red Devils. I have not lost my hair. It’s just thinned a little.”

Robinson, 55, lives in Cobblestone Farms. She expects to learn this week the results of a positron emission topography (PET) scan to see how the treatment is working. If there are still active cancer cells, it will mean more treatment. If not, it is onto surgery.

She said she may opt for a double mastectomy and reconstruction to be rid of as many potential cancer areas as possible.

Married with a daughter and a 4-year-old granddaughter, Robinson said all of her family has been through the journey with her. Her daughter cried at the news of the cancer, her granddaughter was curious about her IV port, and “people were angry because I had gone into denial.”

Now, as she awaits the next big step, Robinson wants to be a voice for breast cancer awareness.

“I want every woman to be more aware of her own body,” she said. “If we could have more women get checked regularly, then I’ve helped a little bit.”

She also helps through the Breast Cancer Awareness Committee. Saturday at 7:30 p.m. is the Pink Pool Party to raise money for cancer research. It is free and open to the public and is highlighted by the Battle of the Bras.

It is a fun time for a serious topic, with men strutting the catwalk in flashy bras designed by the various departments in the casino.

“I love my job because it has been so positive for me,” Robinson said.

In the past, she was also involved with Relay for Life and knows her journey will continue to be up and down. She said helping bring awareness to others has helped her personal journey. There is lingering fear cancer will return somewhere else and many other unknowns. Having strong family support through her troubles has been vital.

“I’ve met survivors and people whose family members have been through this,” Robinson said. “I do know my life as I knew it will never be the same.”

breast-cancer-awareness-month

Harrah's Ak-Chin employees are proudly wearing pink this month to raise breast-cancer awareness. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Harrah’s Ak-Chin is going pink again.

As in pink blackjack tables, pink shirts, pink hair and, of course, pink ribbons.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is a big deal at the casino. Last year, Harrah’s Ak-Chin raised $8,000 for cancer research. Employees want to go even bigger.

“The sole purpose for the media promotion and the entire marketing plan is get word out about breast cancer awareness,” said Christine Todd, community relations manager.

Todd said the employees who are breast cancer survivors or are related to breast-cancer survivors want to make this year’s promotion personal.

“We want to really focus on wellness and prevention,” she said.

As part of that effort, the Mobile Onsite Mammogram (MOM) truck will be at Harrah’s Ak-Chin on Friday for early-detection screenings. Bring your insurance card and your physician’s name and info, do not wear deodorant, lotion or perfume, and wear a two-piece outfit.

For appointment information about MOM, call 800-285-0272.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked at Harrah’s Ak-Chin with pink reminders and special events. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. is the third annual Battle of the Bras during a Pink Pool Party. Staff members have created wildly imaginative brassieres for male volunteers to model during the show. The audience will pick the winner.

Money raised goes to the American Cancer Society.