Ilani Casino Resort work on fast track

Cowlitz Tribe focuses on upgrades to nearby Interstate 5 junction

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

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COWLITZ INDIAN RESERVATION — With the opening of the Ilani Casino Resort just months away, developers are hurrying to complete upgrades to the nearby Interstate 5 junction.

Cowlitz Tribe Chairman Bill Iyall said they will have spent about $2 million more than expected to pay for overtime work in order to ensure the pieces were in place for the casino’s opening in the spring.

“We don’t want to open our casino without a new roadway completed,” Iyall said Monday. The new junction was originally priced at $37 million.

Iyall would not commit to an opening date for the $510 million casino, which is being jointly developed by the Cowlitz Tribe and a subsidiary of the Mohegan Tribe of Indians in Connecticut. He said there are a lot of projects in the air.

Those projects include the 368,000-square-foot casino itself, which is in the midst of hiring and training hundreds of employees, as well as placing a sewer line that stretches underneath the junction and toward the city of La Center to the east.

“It’s imperative to get this (interchange) done in the shortest possible time frame,” Iyall said when reached by phone Monday. “In 13 months, I think it’s remarkable.”

The new interchange, at Exit 16, will include new ramps and a new four-lane overpass with sidewalks. A roundabout will be built on both ends of the overpass that Iyall said will keep traffic flowing steadier than a stoplight or stop sign.

Recent spates of cold weather did cause some delay, he said, but the biggest costs came from the fact that they started three months later than expected.

“We were hoping to start it three months earlier, so we had to make up three months,” he said.