The folks at Rock Gaming threw open the brass doors for a select gathering of media mopes Wednesday afternoon, offering an in-depth look at the former Higbee’s from the basement buffet to the fourth-floor baller’s den. All the while, workers of all kinds — from drywall crews to electricians to dealers to cocktail waitresses-in-trainer — flitted about the place to the strains of relatively irritating pop music.
Here’s a few things you might want to know:
• All the usual casino rules will be in effect: The place will be open 24-7 forever, and you will not see a window unless it’s part of your cab ride home.
• Great efforts were made to maintain the character of the beloved former Higbee Building, from the original columns and refurbished decorative ceilings, to new decorative slot-machine toppers inspired by Higbee’s classic look. The chandeliers, too, will make you think you're fur shopping for Christmas circa 1973. S'wonderful.
• There is a high-roller room, though the Horseshoe’s tour guide expertly feigned ignorance in terms of who you’ve got to be to get in there. As a rule of thumb: Grady Sizemore can get in, though you cannot. It's pretty nice in there, but not that much nicer than the rest of the place is.
• There’s slot machines all over the damned place — 2,100 of them in all, and they're way less annoying before people start paying to make them bleep and blork till the end of time.
• The food court is actually quite small, with Clevo-centric eateries pioneered by Rocco Whalen, Michael Symon, and Corky & Lenny’s. About 30 people, tops, could eat there at once — and don’t even think of taking that reuben back to your slot machine. You will be shot immediately.
• The 400-seat buffet smells as fine as you would hope any buffet could, though the dim lighting and dreary copper and gold hues — pervasive throughout the casino — aren’t particularly inviting.
• The casino floors are raised to accommodate the miles of data and power cables required to make the place go — and to protect Higbee’s original marble floors.
• You can play slot machines for 1 penny or for 500 bucks per spin, depending on how quickly you’re trying to lose your dough.
In short: It’s lovely, it’s audacious, and we sure hope it works for Rock Gaming and for Cleveland.
The casino opens at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, May 16, but don’t expect to be among the first ones in. Wristbands have been distributed for the first arrivers. Safe to say you’ll be able to nudge yourself through the door within an hour or two. And hell, they’ll never close again, so you could always just hold off till a Tuesday night in July.