COWLITZ INDIAN RESERVATION — Most of the same sights and sounds greet an ilani visitor today as they did two years ago, when the casino and resort opened 17 miles north of downtown Vancouver.
The 100,000-square-foot gaming floor is lit just as brilliantly on a cloudy spring day, and the low-level hum of intense gamblers pervades the place. Food and drink options are still just steps away.
But its leaders say ilani has changed in those 24 months, recalibrating its approach to better serve customers while adding features both large and small to attract first-time visitors. More change is on the way.
On Monday, casino officials and Cowlitz Indian Tribe leaders will gather to commemorate the latest building to be constructed on the tribe’s 156-acre reservation between Ridgefield and La Center, and to announce another planned development. At the same time, master planning continues on a broader vision that could one day include a hotel, tribal headquarters, a cultural center and other capital improvements.
It almost makes the battle that led to the casino a distant memory. The project’s development dates back to the early 2000s, when the tribe received formal recognition from the federal government and began to seek land near Exit 16 of Interstate 5 to establish a reservation.