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Tribe breaks ground on casino

Tribal, city officials laud economic benefits

Colville Tribal Federal Corp. board member Ken “Butch” Stanger, far left, and Colville Business Council members Ricky Gabriel, John Sirois and Richard Tonasket, break ground Monday at the new casino site off U.S. Highway 97 in Okanogan.

Roxanne Best/Special to The Chronicle


Colville Tribal Federal Corp. board member Ken “Butch” Stanger, far left, and Colville Business Council members Ricky Gabriel, John Sirois and Richard Tonasket, break ground Monday at the new casino site off U.S. Highway 97 in Okanogan.

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— Speeches, refreshments and energetic music greeted those who attended Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony of the future casino and resort site just off U.S. Highway 97.

“You can see we’re in full-blown construction right now,” said Randy Williams, Colville Tribal Federal Corp. chief operating officer of gaming. “It’s a real exciting project for everybody.”

The 56,000 square-foot casino will offer 500 machines and table games, two lounges, two restaurants and an 80-room hotel.

Williams noted the entire $68 million project is funded entirely by the corporation, a first for the tribe’s projects. Financing was secured through Key Bank.

Construction crews with Taylor Woodstone of Bloomington, Minn., began moving earth and levelling the ground April 14. Trailers from plumbing company ETCO Services, based in Hayden, Idaho, were already on-site Monday.

Williams said the tribe hope to see the casino completed by April or early May of 2015.

“The groundbreaking is the result of years of collaboration between the CBC, staff and CTFC,” Colville Business Council Chairman Michael O. Finley wrote in an email. “It will provide a direct benefit to the entire Okanogan Valley and will stand as the premier business in the entire region.

“The CCT and its membership should take pride in the fact the Tribes continue to lead the region in economic development and job creation.”

The tribe has estimated the new casino and resort will create about 200 jobs.

“We need to make sure that we think about our people first. It’s all about the people,” Councilman Ricky Gabriel said. “These projects create a reciprocal dollar, and I would like to see reciprocal jobs.”

He said he’d also like to see the tribe continue to collaborate with Okanogan County and other agencies to create jobs.

“We help out as much as we can. We’re all one big community, anyway,” he said, noting Omak will provide utilities for the casino and resort.

“I think it’s really exciting for our community,” Mayor Cindy Gagne said. “They actually talked about how important it is to blend our cultures and the community as a whole, and what the economic boon of this project is going to be, so we’re really excited.

“It’s a construction project, so it’s going to have some lumps and bumps and those kind of things, but we’re really excited for them and we appreciate how much they’ve allowed us to be a part of this.”

In late 2009, the tribe purchased 300 acres of land along U.S. Highway 97 south of the Rodeo Trail Road overpass and north of the state Department of Transportation maintenance shop. Access to the casino will be across the road from the Fairgrounds Access Road.

The casino and hotel will sit on about 40 acres of that property.

“It’s been in the works for a long time. I’m happy to see it come to fruition and look forward to the future,” council member Stevey Bylilly said.

It’s still unknown what will happen to the nearby Okanogan Casino, 41 Appleway, which offers 432 games. The corporation’s board will make the final decision.

In late 2009, the tribe purchased 300 acres of land along U.S. Highway 97 south of the Rodeo Trail Road overpass and north of the state Department of Transportation maintenance shop.

Access to the casino will be across the road from the Fairgrounds Access Road.

The casino and hotel will sit on about 40 acres of that property.

“It’s been in the works for a long time. I’m happy to see it come to fruition and look forward to the future,” council member Stevey Bylilly said.

It’s still unknown what will happen to the nearby Okanogan Casino, 41 Appleway, which offers 432 games.

The corporation’s board will make the final decision.

Previous Omak casino plans were scuttled July 15, 2008, after human remains were found on a proposed site south of Dayton Street and west of U.S. Highway 97. Ground was broken on the project July 7, 2008.

The tribe planned to build a $24 million, 58,000- square-foot casino as its largest and first permanent casino, CTEC spokeswoman Michelle Campobasso said at the time.

The casino, which was to employ up to 250 workers plus the nearly 100 already working at Okanogan Bingo Casino, was scheduled to open in 2009.

The Colville Tribal Federal Corp. board met July 21, 2008, at tribal headquarters near Nespelem to discuss plans for the Omak casino.

No further information was provided after the meeting by tribal officials, who barred the media from council chambers “due to the ‘inadvertent discovery’ (of human remains) by the tribe’s history and archeology department during preliminary site work,” then- CTEC board chairman John MacClain said.

The stop-work order required CTEC to search for an alternative site for the casino. CTEC estimated the casino would have generated revenues of $20 million annually with a payroll of $4 million.

The Colville Tribal Enterprise Corp. operates casinos in Okanogan, Mill Bay near Manson and Coulee Dam.

Coulee Dam Casino is at 515 Birch St. Mill Bay Casino, 455 Wapato Lake Road in Manson, was remodeled in 2009 and features 600 video slot games, a restaurant, cafe, night club and the Deep Water Ampitheater.

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