Management at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino is raising the stakes.

Pursuing their mission to operate a high-level entertainment destination, officials have launched a $14 million project to renovate the North Strabane Township facility. Updates, upgrades and reconfigurations of the casino have begun or are ahead, while patrons play on.

“Every facility, over time, has to evolve,” Meadows general manager Tony Frabbiele said. “Customers change, environments change. Your business has to keep evolving to keep customers coming.”

“We’re creating a whole new experience,” said Kevin Brogan, vice president of marketing. “We’re thinking: ‘Come experience The Meadows for the first time – again.’”

This is a major upgrade at the casino, which moved to its current location in 2009 after operating in a temporary space for two years.

The biggest change would be the addition of a sportsbook – allowing customers to bet on various sports events. The Meadows filed for a sportsbook license July 3, but that is only the beginning.

To be approved, the gaming site would have to successfully present its plans to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board – probably at a hearing in September or October. Then if it’s thumbs up, the casino would have to pay a $10 million fee for the license. And then ... the control board would have to check equipment, including security cameras, and whether employees are properly trained and licensed.

After that, the sportsbook will be subjected to a two- to three-day test, with live wagering, to assure there are no issues.

Vibe lounge closed several weeks ago to enable construction of the sportsbook area. When completed, the U-shaped bar essentially will be in the middle of the sportsbook. Because that endeavor has yet to be approved, Brogan could not estimate a time frame for opening.

Slots aficionados will have a reconfigured area, where 120 machines will be added, raising the total to 2,506.

“We’ll remove other units and open up the aisles and pathways, making it look like a new facility,” Frabbiele said. Work will begin next week and is targeted to end in November.

The food court, which shut in early July, will give way to The Eatery, a four-restaurant concept of Fabio Viviani, a celebrity chef based in Chicago. The Eatery, which will overlook the racetrack, will offer four dining variations: Mercato (Italian), The Classic (burgers), Zen (Asian) and Joe & Dough (coffee and sweets).

“We thought, ‘What can we do for horse racing customers?’” Frabbiele said. “They can sit here, eat and choose craft beers.”

This new dining area also will feature a 40-seat bar, with 36 beers on tap. There will be a larger entrance to the restaurants than currently exists from the gaming floor, which will force a satellite cashier’s cage to be removed. An early-to mid-November launch is anticipated.

Three other dining spots – Bistecca Steakhouse, The Carvery and The Pub – will remain open.

Construction will begin in October at the Headliners lounge, where seating will expand by 100 to 350. “It will be like an old-style theater, with a marquee,” said Brogan, who forecasts a mid-December opening.

That marquee, a semicircle high above the gaming floor, will bear the name “Headliners” and names of weekend performers. It will greet customers at the main entrance. “You come in and this energy will be right in front of you,” Frabbiele said.

So The Meadows, owned by Penn National Gaming and encompassing about 100,000 square feet, is experiencing a facelift – one that, in the general manager’s view, should enhance the future.

“We believe this project will help in the long term.”

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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