They lined up on the new blacktop of Chances Maple Ridge, a few leaning on their walkers or sitting in their scooters, waiting for the doors to open so they could take their chances in the new gaming centre on Lougheed Highway.
The skies were clear and the autumn sun warm, and hostesses delivered cool drinks as people waited for the ribbon cutting.
“I just hope it can be supported,” said Marcel Boivin, a Maple Ridge gaming fan who visits other centres in the Lower Mainland.
“It’s a small town and there are so many casinos around.”
Moments after the ribbon was cut and the doors opened, the $10-million gaming centre was crammed, just as if it had been operating for a decade.
“I think it’s beautiful. I like it,” said Bertha Ezako, a regular patron of the old Haney Bingo Plex, now vacant, on 224th Street.
With the Chances now on 227th Street, Ezako is just a few blocks closer to her home, making it more convenient to drop by.
She knows how much she can afford to gamble.
“You’ve got to know your limit,” she says while playing one of the one-cent machines. And when she does get lucky a bit, “just don’t get greedy.” Know when to quit.
She learned that the hard way, she adds.
“I go to bingo, I play there for three hours, it only costs me $40.”
The premises, complete with 143-seat licenced restaurant (The Well) with stage and fireplace, 200 bingo seats and 175 slot machines, impressed longtime resident Gerd Kabakian.
“What a wonderful place, beautiful. I like the way it’s laid out.”
Kabakian used to go to the Haney Bingo Plex about once a month. “I never bet the farm.”
For Wednesday’s opening, she saved about $400 in spare change in a bottle and brought $200 of that to the opening. It’s not money she needs for anything else, she adds.
Shelley Ozeroff, from Coquitlam, was first in the lineup, bringing her parents to see the new centre. That paid off because she scooped up several prizes from Great Canadian Gaming Corp., including tickets to see Hedley at the opening of Hard Rock Casino in Vancouver in December, as well as a Hard Rock guitar, plus a free stay at the Hotel at River Rock in Richmond.
With a larger number of slot machines, the District of Maple Ridge also will earn more money for its budget. Maple Ridge gets a share of the slot machine revenue and last year hauled in $819,341 from the 100 machines that were in the old Haney Bingo Plex.
While the new building wowed the crowd inside, the work outside the gaming centre changed downtown.
The agreement with the District of Maple Ridge required Great Canadian Gaming to build a new road to the downtown, creating a new intersection at Lougheed Highway and 227th Street and extending the road to the suburbs below.
As well, an adjacent lot next door was remediated and turned into a parking lot, while nature trails and creation of natural space was all part of restoring the brownfield site.
Total cost for that came to $4.2 million, said Terrance Doyle, vice-president of planning and construction with Great Canadian Gaming Corp.
Wednesday’s opening came five years after receiving council approval for rezoning. But that time allowed proper planning for the site, Doyle said.
“It was great to be able to take the time and do it right.”
The environmental work included diverting stormwater flow from the road, parking lot and roof into a shallow depression in a low part of the site where it’s biofiltered, after which it flows into a newly created creek. There were no fish bearing waters prior to construction but wildlife conditions are expected to improve on the new site.
Ground infiltration of stormwater was another eco-friendly feature. Parking stalls are bordered with rain gardens that soak up water and divert it into the ground. That means less stormwater has to be handled by the municipal system. Total cost for such measures were about $80,000.
There’s nothing really new about such an approach though. “Honestly, that’s the way it was done 100 years ago. That’s the way they did it,” Doyle said.