The new hotel, she said, is a new point of pride for the Cowlitz people.
“We’re terribly proud of the casino itself,” she said. “And this just adds to the visibility, the revenue and the opportunities for jobs for the tribe.”
Awaiting her chance to tour the hotel, Williams was eager to see what cultural aspects were woven into the building.
“One of the things I really love about the casino is that when I bring another friend here, I like to show them all the cultural elements that exist,” said Williams.
The new passageway linking the casino and hotel — the Cowlitz Cultural Corridor — is especially important. The hallway is lined with video scenes of the region and displays of traditional tools, baskets, carvings and clothing. Overhead is a grand chandelier made of canoe paddles.
In the hotel’s lobby, a bar and bistro flank a large fireplace and sitting area.
A swimming pool and patio anchor the hotel’s second floor. The pool offers a cafe and bar, hot tub, private showers and restrooms, towel service and cabanas.
A new Italian-inspired restaurant — Bella Vista — crowns the hotel. The restaurant offers panoramic views of the Cascade range and Mount St. Helens, as well as the valley below.
At Monday’s ribbon-cutting, a blessing was given by the tribe’s spiritual leader Tanna Engdahl. Speakers included Kara Fox-LaRose, president and general manager at ilani; Patty Kinswa-Gaiser, chairwoman of the tribe; Ray Pineault, president and CEO at Mohegan; Troy Dunkley, CEO of Kids Quest; and Ridgefield Mayor Jennifer Lindsay.
“In centuries past, when a village started to become crowded, some families moved to a new site,” said Engdahl. “Now, we have moved our new site into the skies.”
“Our sky village is here to offer relaxation, comfort, hospitality and entertainment,” added Engdahl.
Kinswa-Gaiser presented Mohegan’s director of program management, Paul Tresnan, with a tribal blanket, thanking him for his work on the project.
“This tower has been a testament to our ongoing commitment to ensure that we are serving our community best,” said Fox-LaRose, mentioning she hoped her team was making the tribe proud.
The hotel garnered praise from Ridgefield’s mayor and later from several members of the Ridgefield Chamber of Commerce who showed up to support the venture.
“ilani — with all of the traffic that it’s going to be bringing from out of town — is going to be wonderful,” said Kristeen Millett, a member of the Ridgefield Chamber of Commerce. “It’s awesome that there is going to be an amazing hotel so close to home.”
For the kids
Opening alongside the hotel was the Kids Quest child care center and Cyber Quest arcade.
Cyber Quest is a redemption-based arcade with nonviolent game content, said Mike Theisen, marketing director for Kids Quest. “All of our content is family-friendly,” he added.
The arcade offers racing games, crane games, traditional games and virtual reality games. At Cyber Quest, kids younger than 13 have to be accompanied by an adult. But for adults wanting to drop off kids while they have dinner or take in a show, there’s a place for them, too.
To the rear of the arcade is the Kids Quest child care center. The hourly center is open daily in the afternoon and evening to children from 30 months through 12 years old. There are no more than 10 children to each staff member. Food is not included, but parents can let the Kids Quest team know what food their kids can have and pay for it later.
Kids Quest has a climbing wall, a virtual reality ball game, an art station, a karaoke stage, a gaming station, an iPad station and an indoor playground.
Last week, the tribe opened its fourth enterprise, its Q’anapsu Cannabis Dispensary. The tribe now has five enterprises on its reservation: the ilani Casino, the Cowlitz Crossing convenience store, the tobacco shop, the marijuana dispensary and now the ilani Hotel.