The Cowlitz Indian Tribe released fresh details this week about the $510 million casino-resort project now under construction along Interstate 5 at Exit 16 outside of La Center.
Scheduled to open in spring 2017, the three-phase project initially will include a one-story casino-resort building of 368,000 total square feet. It will include a 100,000-square-foot gaming floor, plus meeting facilities and 15 different restaurants, bars and retail shops, according to the tribe.
The large gaming space — about the size of a Fred Meyer store — will make it “one of the premier entertainment and meeting destinations of the Northwest,” the tribe stated in a fact sheet. “Exciting games of chance and skill will be found in an environment that brings forward the culture of the Northwest and pays tribute to the heritage of the Cowlitz Tribe.”
Designed to have a Northwest feel with stone, wood, natural light and subtle tribal touches, the casino will feature 2,500 slots, 75 gaming tables, 60 high-limit slots and five high-limit tables. The venue for meetings and conventions can seat up to 2,500 people. The complex will include 3,000 on-site parking spaces, with valet and VIP services to be offered.
While gaming is the big attraction, no one would go home hungry. The casino will house eateries, bars and shops offering casual and fine dining, sandwiches, snacks and craft beer near the gaming floor. Much of the dining space will be leased to third-party operators with local appeal and a national brand presence, said Pete Schultz, the casino’s project manager.
If You Go
• What: Open house with project planners, engineers and contractors to view construction plans for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s casino-resort and a modified Interstate 5 interchange at Exit 16.
• When: 6 to 8 p.m. Monday.
• Where: La Center Community Center, 1000 East Fourth St., La Center.
The Cowlitz Tribal Gaming Authority has a seven-year development agreement and management agreement with Salishan-Mohegan LLC, a subsidiary of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, to develop and manage the casino.
The tribe anticipates building a hotel in the second phase of development, three or four years after the casino opens, Schultz said Friday.
The project will bring 250 short-term construction jobs to the area, followed by 800 to 1,200 casino jobs once the casino opens, according to the Cowlitz Tribe, which says it has a hiring agreement with local labor unions. An average dealer can earn $50,000 a year plus benefits, said Schultz, noting that a variety of workers will be employed, from slot technicians to support staff in human resources.
“It’s almost like a small city in itself as far as types of jobs it produces,” he said.
The casino will buy a “significant” amount of goods and services, such as food and beverages, additional catering services, furniture, office supplies, landscaping and printing — all of which will stimulate the local economy, Schultz said. The Mohegan Sun Pocono casino in Pennsylvania spends more than $40 million a year on purchasing, but it has a hotel, he said.
Cowlitz Indian Tribe Chairman Bill Iyall said the tribe wants the community to feel a sense of ownership in the casino while sharing its benefits and opportunities.
“The tribe believes the success of the resort will depend on successful relationships with the local community,” he said Friday.
The project’s architect and interior designer is the Las Vegas and Newport Beach, Calif.-based Friedmutter Group, which says on its website, www.fglv.com, that it designs gaming and hospitality projects for clients around the world.
Excavation on the casino site began in October with grading and foundation work, which the tribe hoped to complete before the rain began. Construction will begin in earnest in January. The tribe is working on redesigning the casino’s website, www.cowlitzcasino.com, starting the branding process for the property and ramping up public outreach about the project, Schultz said.
Swinterton Builders, which has offices throughout the western and central United States, is the general contractor. Kittelson & Associates, a national transportation firm, is doing the planning work for the $25 million I-5 interchange project, which the Cowlitz Tribe is funding.
Earlier this week, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, an affiliate of the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe of Indians, announced it was financing the casino project.
The federal government officially recognized the Cowlitz Indian Tribe in 2000. In 2010, the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved an application to take 152 acres of land into trust for a new Cowlitz reservation. The reservation was established in March.
“We’ve existed here since time immemorial, long before there were counties,” Iyall said.
The relationship between the Cowlitz and the Mohegan Tribe dates back to the mid-1990s, when the Mohegan Tribe won recognition, he said. Now that the Mohegan Tribe is successful, it’s been helping other tribes to benefit Indian country, Iyall said.
“They definitely stepped up to the plate for us,” he said.