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What do you do with a 17,000-square-foot casino floor after converting it into a non-gaming, non-smoking hotel brand? Turn it into a giant recreation area with bocce ball courts, big screen TVs, ski ball and a bar. Obviously.

"Literally, everything is changing," said Tristan Wood, the new director of operations at Siena Hotel.

Everything in the old Siena Hotel will be replaced to make way for its conversion into a family-friendly Renaissance Hotel. Renaissance is a luxury Marriott International brand that purchased the property in May 2015. Serious demolition and construction started this year. The hotel will be the first major brand to follow in the footsteps of Whitney Peak Hotel, the only other non-gaming, non-smoking hotel in downtown Reno.

During the past few months, the bright yellow paint on the outside was repainted to dark shades of grey to match the surrounding historic buildings, such as the U.S. Post Office across Center Street. The restaurants inside, including Johnny Rockets, are being replaced with new food and bar options later this year. The 214 rooms are all getting remodeled from scratch by Miles Construction. And even the old riverside balcony will extend another 15 feet over the Truckee River.

'Transformation of Reno'

But why bocce ball?

Owner and managing partner Fernando Leal, said bocce ball is the up and coming trendy team sport for ages 5 and older. His eyes light up when he talks about all the possibilities and positive energy he said the game will bring to downtown Reno.

"It's part of the transformation of Reno, away from gaming," Wood said.

To help make the transition from casino to bocce haven, Leal brought in a team of Italian court designers with their American representative, Da Vinci Bocce. Michael Grasser, owner of Da Vinci Bocce, explained that they use synthetic materials built to last and provide tournament-level gameplay.

"You don't want the ball to bounce above your knees," Grasser said. "If it does, that's not a good court."

Other courts use dirt or grass, which work fine, he said, but don't provide the same experience.

Grasser started building backyard bocce ball courts in Michigan in 1991.

On his first job, he and his team "thought they were pretty good" but were later "creamed" at their first tournament in Rome, New York. Since then, he has improved, winning four gold medals in national and international competitions. Grasser said he's designed, built and consulted on more than 100 arenas all over the country in backyards, professional courts and clubs.

Wood and Leal hope the bocce courts will attract families, friends, corporate events and even spur new league play in town. They want to open the recreation area in October for private events to test out the courts and bar area. The seven indoor courts will be joined by two regulation outdoor courts on a large porch in the front.

Hotel rooms get makeover

Meanwhile, the hotel rooms will be renovated three floors at a time while the Siena Hotel stays open and continues booking rooms around the construction. The old rooms will be replaced with contemporary furniture, fixtures and decorations and include as much environmentally friendly and local options as possible. Each room will include paintings of various native fish on the ceiling, for example, and unique quotes or facts about the Northern Nevada area painted on the walls.

The Renaissance brand will finally take over and reopen in quarter one of 2017, Wood said.

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