Opened for business on May 22, 2009, the new Sands Casino is an indication of changing times for the Lehigh Valley region in eastern Pennsylvania. Once the source of livelihood for tens of thousands of workers in the steel industry, the furnaces and factory doors of the Bethlehem steel mill had been closed for decades. An ambitious project to utilize the existing structures as the skeleton of the new hotel/casino complex has kept alive the memory of the once thriving industry of the area. The huge crane which now supports the Sands logo was once the workhorse of the steel making process, unloading railroad cars full of ore.
The landscape planting plan for the casino had to deal with several challenges. Soil had to be imported to provide a rooting medium because of the prevalence of rock on site. Drainage of storm water was accomplished by a network of bio-swales which help infiltrate excess water back into the ground, not into storm sewers. The focal point of the site was to be the structure itself, not the landscape design. A natural look for the plantings was created by the use of native shrubs and trees, with a complement of decorative grasses, and a few flower planting boxes at the front entrance. There is no turfgrass at this site. The irrigation system needed to be capable of delivering the extra water needed for establishment of new plantings without waste and runoff. Once established, the irrigation maintenance schedules would need to be drastically reduced. The Hunter ACC system was our choice for the controller, because of its user-friendly programming interface. It is also powerful enough to utilize a 2-wire decoder wiring path, which allowed us to make additions on the fly during construction due to changes in the landscape plan.