|By Chris Parker, The Morning Call,
Allentown, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 15, 2007 - Bettyann DeNaples remembers how chaotic and crowded hotel bathrooms could get when she and her husband, Louis, traveled with their children.
So when she and her daughter Lisa oversaw the design of the new hotel at Mount Airy Casino Resort, she wanted bathrooms that were big and convenient.
To make sure they met her expectations, she had a 6-foot, 5-inch, 400-pound employee stand in the shower, turn around and lift his arms.
"We didn't have the water on, naturally," she said.
DeNaples believes that people who travel to her husband's casino in Paradise Township shouldn't have to gamble on finding a nice place to stay. That's why every room has a 37-inch television and beds with pillow-top mattresses.
Starting today, visitors will get a chance to see for themselves when the six-story, 188-room hotel, the second milestone of the $412 million resort, officially opens.
A spa and nightclub are expected to open by the end of the year. The casino, which has 2,523 slot machines, is expected to have 3,000 by next year.
The hotel addition makes Mount Airy the first casino in the state to open its own lodging. Resort officials plan to build an additional 212 rooms by the end of next year, said spokesman Pete Peterson.
If this weekend is any indication, the hotel will be in demand. All 188 rooms and suites are booked, said customer service representative April Goode.
"People want to come play in Paradise," she said.
Room prices vary according to the month and whether visitors plan to stay on a weekend or a weekday.
Prices for today are $199 for a room and $279 for a suite, tax not included.
The rooms are luxurious. The hokey heart-shaped bathtubs that defined the old Mount Airy Lodge as a honeymoon haven have given way to spacious bathrooms with built-in shelves, big bathtubs, roomy, glass-doored showers and a separate sitting room.
DeNaples said her husband joked with her that the rooms are so nice that guests might spend more time in them than on the casino floor.
"I want people to be comfortable. I want them to get their money's worth," she said.
The hotel stretches out from both sides of the casino. Guests enter through the casino lobby where the hotel registration desk is. DeNaples and her daughter decorated the hotel with a seasonal theme.
The vibrant colors of the first and second floors represent spring. Deep colors symbolize summer on the third floor, followed by traditional autumn tones on the fourth floor. The fifth floor, winter, has hues of dark brown and aqua.
The sixth floor was done in soothing blues and grays, representing "tranquility, which I think I love the best because it's getting away from the world," DeNaples said.
DeNaples patronized businesses in Pennsylvania for the furnishings and fabrics. All the paintings that grace the walls are the work of local artists. She said she found them by visiting local frame shops.
Among the artists is Bill Chickillo of Fleetville, Lackawanna County.
Chickillo and his wife, Lauri, were busy Wednesday hanging an autumn painting, "Birches at Bald Mountain," in the casino lobby. Chickillo's paintings in the hotel and casino include another autumn piece, "Late Fall," and winter pieces, "Full Moon at State Park" and "Off 380." Chickillo also has art hanging in two of the casino's four restaurants, collages in the steakhouse and pastels in the Italian restaurant.
As the Chickillos strung wire, casino workers were busy in the ornate lobby attending to small finishing tasks such as painting window trim and cleaning carpets. They worked as visitors entered and left the casino.
Mount Airy's casino has grossed $9.6 million since it opened on Oct. 22, according to the state Gaming Control Board.
Peterson said the casino doesn't track the number of visitors.
Mount Airy is the first of five stand-alone casinos in Pennsylvania.
State legislators in 2004 legalized the construction of as many as 14 casinos statewide as a way of raising $1 billion a year to reduce school property taxes.
DeNaples bought Mount Airy in late 2004 for $25 million and demolished the original structure to make way for a casino. He broke ground in July 2006, five months before the state awarded him a slots license.
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