Construction is poised to start within two weeks on the United Auburn Indian Community’s new 650-room, 23-story hotel and 3,000-seat performing arts center at Thunder Valley Casino near Lincoln.
The construction project, which will expand on the current five-year-old casino, is expected to be completed by summer 2010.
As well as the hotel and performing arts center, the project includes completion of three new restaurants, more gaming space and a new poker room, a parking structure capable of holding 5,000 cars, and spa.
Tribal leaders held a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday in front of the casino.
Jessica Tavares, chairwoman of the Auburn-based tribe, said that the casino’s success has allowed the expansion but has also provided its 200 members the funding for health insurance, a tribal school and a permanent tribal office, as well as educational opportunities “previous generations never dreamed of.”
The expansion will add to the initial casino footprint – a 200,000-square-foot building constructed at a cost of $215 million and opened in June 2003.
The casino has more than 2,700 slot machines and 98 gaming tables, as well as a 500-seat buffet.
The United Auburn Indian Community is estimating that the expansion will create more than 1,200 new jobs when it opens – adding to the 2,000 jobs that already exist there.
Scott Garawitz, Thunder Valley CEO, said the two-year project will take the casino “to the next level” as a full-service casino, resort and spa.
Garawitz said it wasn’t too many years ago that participants would have been standing in a cowfield on the site.
“Today, we have one of the most successful casinos in the United States,” Garawitz said. “But this is nothing compared to where the tribe wants to take it.”
For the next two years, work on the casino will provide the area with 1,200 construction jobs during a slowdown in that sector, he noted.
Garawitz described the planned hotel as the “coolest anywhere in Northern California,” with the largest suite measuring a spacious 3,000 square feet.
“Most people would call that a house,” he joked.
The hotel’s designer normally does work for Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons properties and the theater designer drew up the plans for the Celine Dion theater in Las Vegas as well as for Cirque de Soleil.
The expansion also holds the promise of new revenue for government during a down period for revenues.
Thunder Valley estimates are that once the expansion is completed, property tax payments will skyrocket from the current $2.72 million to $10.7 million. Based on that number, the value of new construction would be in the $800 million range.
Food and beverage sales taxes would increase from $550,000 a year to about $1 million. The hotel will bring in about $1.4 million in tourism-directed bed taxes and Placer County Tourism will receive about $200,000 annually from a $1 a night hotel occupancy tax.