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Lots of improvements going on at Shooting Star

A view from inside the front entrance of the Shooting Star Casino. Submitted photo1 / 2
This mock-up shows the new layout of the Traditions Buffet at the Shooting Star Casino. Submitted graphic2 / 2

The Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Event Center in Mahnomen has kicked off the first of several property upgrade and renovation projects, all of which will be underway this summer.

On April 18, Traditions Buffet closed for an extensive renovation project. Once complete in mid-July, the new Traditions Buffet will feature modern amenities, an added 950 square feet, and a redesigned floor plan. Guests can also expect an all-new menu created by executive chef Mark Cowgill.

The restaurant renovation project was designed by the Cuningham Group, which also designed the restaurant at the tribe's casino in Bagley, and redesigned the Whispering Winds restaurant at the Mahnomen casino, which is now the Smoke Barbeque and Brew.

"The entire restaurant will be completely redesigned, with much more open space, and all on one level," said Bill Marsh, general manager of Shooting Star Casino. "We started work on the buffett two weeks ago — it's going pretty well so far."

The full renovation project will add 28-30 more seats to the restaurant and upgrade the food lines to improve the flow at the buffet, Marsh said. The new design will separate the soups and salads, the main entrees and the dessert tables. "So the flow of the serving line will be more on par with with how you actually eat a meal," he added.

The restaurant is also looking to spice up its offerings, with more specialty foods, and more international-type foods, such as Mexican food or Asian food.

"There will also be a pizza oven right on the main entree line — so there will be pizzas in three minutes or less, there will always be fresh, hot pizzas on the buffet line," Marsh said. He expects the renovated buffet to open June 22.

While the Traditions Buffet is being renovated, people can dine at the casino's four other restaurants — Smoke Barbeque and Brew, Mino Wiisini Cafe, 2 One 8, and Tim Horton's Café & Bake Shop. There will also be pop-up buffets in the Shooting Star Event Center on select Tuesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

"Remodeling Traditions Buffet is just the beginning of the renovations we have in store for Shooting Star," Marsh said.

New doors have been installed in the main entryway, and hotel room facelifts are slated to happen in phases, as the 386-room hotel moves towards being 100 percent smoke-free.

"We're in the process of completing a model room, and the rest of the hotel will be designed around that," Marsh said. "As we complete a room, we'll re-open it as smoking-free."

All the guestrooms will get new carpeting, beds, furnishings, decor and amenities, and the hotel's hallways, corridors and other public places will also be freshened up, Marsh said.

Three of the hotel floors now allow guests to smoke. "We're looking to eliminate that, we're looking for a healthier overall environment in the hotel ... we actually hope to be done by the end of this year."

On Tuesday, the tribe closed on a motel in Bagley that will be renovated and refurbished to become the Shooting Star Hotel, located only about five minutes away from the tribe's new casino in Bagley.

"We take ownership tomorrow," Marsh said on Monday. "In mid-June it will reopen."

There is a lot going on with White Earth gaming this summer, Marsh said.

"We're very busy right now, but the end result will be a lot of great improvements for all our guests," he added.

The Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Event Center offers a 73,000 square-foot Las Vegas-style casino floor, a 15,000

square-foot concert venue and nearly 30,000 square feet of event space. The 21,400 square-foot Shooting Star Casino in Bagley opened in August 2016.