Big New Resort To Transform S.W. Corner Of The State

Lake Charles, La. — The relatively quiet corner of Southwest Louisiana, near the Texas border and a short drive from the Gulf of Mexico, is gearing up for an event this spring it expects will put it on the gaming and meetings map.

In March, Pinnacle Entertainment's $365 million L'Auberge du Lac casino resort will open on the shores of Lake Charles. The addition of the eye-popping, 745-guestroom resort —which sports 54,000 square feet of meeting space, a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, an oversized spa and a lazy river feature — increases by nearly half the area's existing gaming-oriented facilities.

"We are thrilled to have this opportunity to promote our region," said Shelley Johnson, executive director of the Southwest Louisiana–Lake Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau. "There is nothing like this anywhere else in Louisiana or Mississippi."

L'Auberge du Lac — meaning "the inn on the lake," a designation in keeping with the area's French Cajun heritage — features a soaring 26-story tower, an Arts and Crafts design in stone and wood, and deluxe suites of up to 2,100 square feet.

The resort and the rest of Lake Charles' resort-casinos are just two hours from metropolitan Houston, its 4.5 million residents and potent airlift, which is key to its marketing outreach.

"All this is new to the market in Houston," said Kim Townsend, vice president of Pinnacle Entertainment, the growing Las Vegas-based company behind L'Auberge du Lac. "Previously, Lake Charles was not an area thought about for meetings. We hope to go after small groups, VIPs and incentives."

Townsend said L'Auberge du Lac will have the appearance of a full-scale Las Vegas resort, even though its appeal will be primarily regional.

"And it will be less expensive than Las Vegas by virtue of its location and the low airfare into Houston."

L'Auberge du Lac augments Lake Charles' existing gaming facilities, which includes Harrah's Casino Hotel, with 264 guestrooms and a theater seating 350; the Isle of Capri's two adjacent hotels of 253 and 241 guestrooms respectively; and Delta Downs Racetrack and Casino, featuring almost 1,500 slots.

Johnson said Lake Charles, whose Civic Center offers a 22,400-square-foot main floor and several meeting rooms, now can be a viable regional competitor to Biloxi-Gulfport, Miss., with its more established lineup of casinos and meeting facilities.

"L'Auberge du Lac gives us new options in having larger meetings using multiple properties," she said. "We now feel we can compete on a national level."

Contact Christopher Hosford at [email protected]