When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S. in March of 2020, Three Rivers Casino Resort and its two properties on Oregon’s scenic Central Coast, like all tribal gaming and hospitality properties, closed in accordance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance and government regulations. It was the first time that the casino resort, first opened as a casino-only in 2004 before a resort expansion in 2007, was forced to shut its doors to its beloved local community. Owned and operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, Three Rivers Casino Resort has strong ties to the surrounding community along the Central Oregon Coast, as one of the largest employers in the area, sponsor of local arts programs for both professional and children’s theater and supporter of local and regional non-for-profits.
Three Rivers’ exceptional guest experience has been recognized with the Blue Heron Hospitality Award for its commitment to outstanding service.
Faced with the untenable economic consequences of remaining closed amidst an unprecedented public health challenge, tribal leadership immediately implemented enhanced safety protocols and planning, including enhanced surface and disinfection, hand hygiene and face covering protocols for guests and employees. Given CDC’s evidence regarding airborne transmission of the virus, tribal leadership carefully implemented a plan to enhance all of its additional safety measures. Installing advanced air disinfection technology to protect its employees and guests, was perhaps most critical.
Three Rivers Casino Resort has two properties, one location in Florence and a second location in Coos Bay. The Florence location features a 19,000 sq. ft. smoking section and Coos Bay features a 12,000 sq. ft. all-smoking gaming area. The central air systems at both locations would not accommodate installing technology inside the units and space above the ceiling was limited. Therefore, it was critical to source airstream technology that could function independently from the existing central air systems and that could be installed below the ceiling.
With these operational specifications in play, Three Rivers’ leadership sought to find an indoor air quality system that could both reduce SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from the airstream and remove smoke and odors from the environment. The broader goal was a dually safe and comfortable experience for its casino resort employees and guests.
Innovative and Proven Ultraviolet Indoor Air Quality Technology is Identified
Tribal and Resort leadership turned to UltraViolet Devices, Inc. (UVDI), a California-based manufacturer of advanced ultraviolet (UV-C) technology for airstream disinfection, air purification and cooling coil cleaning. At the time of the pandemic’s initial surge, UVDI and Three Rivers’ leadership were already in preliminary discussions on the installation of a new system to provide air purification and smoke removal. To address the needs of Three Rivers and many Native American gaming properties, UVDI was in the process of developing a new air purification system, V-PAC™ PRO, proven to improve airflow, reduce smoke and odor, while reducing particulate matter in the air and airborne viruses. Of central importance, the UV-C technology used in the V-PAC PRO is proven to reduce airborne viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.
With tribal leadership’s approval in September 2020, seven UVDI V-PAC PRO Air Purification Units were ordered to meet the two properties’ needs and installed in January of 2021. Five units were to be placed in the smoking section of the Florence location and two units at the Coos Bay location. These are 2000 CFM air handling units containing a pre-filter, two sets of UV-C lamps, catalytic oxidation technology and a final carbon filter. Using these multiple technologies provided the unique 4-in-1 solution Three Rivers Casino Resort was looking for.
To manage the installation of the seven units across the two properties, UVDI worked closely with Jesse Gardner, the Facilities Director for both properties. In parallel, UVDI worked closely with Three Rivers’ Marketing Director Richard Colton to create custom prominent, on-site marketing – floor stickers, on-unit signage and 8.5×11 signage – to notify guests and employees of the advanced airstream technology, and in doing so, assure them they were working and playing in a protected environment.
Investing in Public Health Enhances New Guest Experiences
The impact on customers and employees has been extremely positive and produced immediate rewards. First and foremost, the UVDI V-PAC PRO’s impact on Indoor air quality has been notable – and noticed. “We have noticed a significant improvement in air quality and reduction of smoke odor at both properties,” said Jesse Gardner, Facilities Director, Three Rivers Casino Resort. “We have, through signage, marketed these units’ ability to reduce the virus in the air. Customers are providing very positive comments regarding both air quality and our focus on reducing the airborne SARS-CoV-2.”
In addition to its proven public health benefits, the technology’s impact of indoor air quality have begun to positively transform and enhance guest experience and facility operations. Specifically, the reduction of smoke and odor from the larger property’s smoking area made it comfortable for non-smokers to play their favorite games on the smoking side instead of the smaller non-smokers’ area.
“We’ve been getting a lot of good feedback from our guests about the UVDI air purification system,” said Shawn Strenke, Manager-on-Duty in the Florence property. “Guests have noticed the difference before-and-after we installed it. There is not a lot of cigarette smoke on the gaming floor now, which the non-smokers really appreciate. Now they are playing their favorite games no matter what section they are in.”
Added Rick Gunsolley, Guest Services, “The smell of smoke is almost eliminated in the smoking section, which is encouraging more non-smokers to play in the smoking section. Employees’ clothes also do not smell of smoke after working on the casino floor.”
Three Rivers’ commitment first and foremost to the health of its employees and guests delivered proven on-site protection against airborne SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, helping the properties to operate continuously and safely during the pandemic. In addition, the advanced airstream protection helped Three Rivers deliver a new and enhanced gaming experience in unprecedented times as non-smoking guests felt comfortable playing in the properties’ smoking sections. In short, Three Rivers’ investment in its community’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic is proving a solid investment for its people and its bottom line.
“We highly recommend installing the UVDI V-PAC PRO units’ which have been a great investment for our employees’ and customers’ health,” said Gardner.
Other Indian gaming properties using the UV-C technology to reduce airborne COVID-19 include: Mole Lake Casino, Apache Gold Casino, Fort Belknap Casino and Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino.
For more information about UVDI, call Jim Kenney at (661) 289-6145 or email [email protected]. For more information about Three Rivers Casino Resort, visit www.threeriverscasino.com.