COWLITZ INDIAN RESERVATION — ilani has officially kicked off construction of a long-planned luxury hotel next to its north Clark County casino.
ilani President and General Manager Kara Fox-LaRose joined Cowlitz Tribe Chairman Philip Harju and a group of tribal leaders at a groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning. The event was timed to mark the fourth anniversary of the casino’s opening in 2017.
The planned hotel will be a 14-story tower with nearly 300 rooms, according to a press release from ilani. It will rise southeast of the main casino building, and conceptual renderings show that the two structures will be connected at the ground floor.
Construction is expected to be completed in 2023, Fox-LaRose said, roughly aligning with ilani’s sixth anniversary.
A crowd of about 200 people gathered around an outdoor stage near the casino’s south entrance Friday morning, directly west of the planned hotel site. Harju delivered opening remarks welcoming the audience, and Cowlitz spiritual leader Tanna Engdahl led a blessing for the project.
Cowlitz Tribe vice-chair David Barnett led the two-decade process of securing the land, forming a partnership with the Mohegan Tribe and designing and building ilani.
“This day has been a long time coming,” Harju said. He said the hotel is a key piece of the tribe’s long-term master plan for ilani and the Cowlitz reservation.
Ridgefield mayor Don Stose also spoke positively about the hotel project and said it would benefit the city to have a hotel nearby, particularly when it comes to hosting out-of-town student athlete teams for local games.
The hotel will feature a mix of standard rooms and luxury suites, according to Fox-LaRose, as well as a fitness center, spa, salon, in-room dining service, a top floor restaurant and a bar with outdoor terrace access.
There will also be a pool with cabanas, wet lounges and a poolside café, she said. The pool will be indoors, but it will feature a retractable wall to create a more outdoor experience.
ilani is aiming for the hotel to achieve a Four Diamond evaluation from AAA, she said, which would be a first for Clark County.
The hotel was designed by Friedmutter Group, which also designed the main casino building, and Howard S. Wright is serving as the general contractor for the project, according to Fox-LaRose. Wright was chosen in part due to its previous work on luxury hotel projects, Harju said, including the under-construction Ritz Carlton in downtown Portland.
Friedmutter VP of interior design Suzanne Couture said the hotel will build on the “design foundation” established by the main casino building and would “continue to weave the Cowlitz” story into the design elements. The blue glass exterior walls symbolize the sky and nearby rivers, she said.
The hotel is the latest in a series of expansion projects that ilani has undertaken since the casino opened. A six-story garage with approximately 2,600 spaces debuted last year, and the Cowlitz Crossing convenience store and gas station opened for business in 2019.
Another project underway will add a substantial addition to the casino’s gaming floor, branching off from the north wall next to the food court. Fox-LaRose briefly discussed the project during her remarks, and said it is scheduled to open in early July. The expansion will include new gaming tables and slot machines, she said, as well as an Asian restaurant with an open-kitchen format.
The project also includes a sports bar which is slated to open later in the summer, marking ilani’s expansion into the world of sports betting following the passage of a state law last year that legalized the practice at tribal casinos.