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Construction begins Aug. 15 on new Point Casino; 52,000 square feet, up to 80 more employees
PORT GAMBLE S’KLALLAM — The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe will begin work this month on a new Point Casino.
The planned 52,000-square-foot building will be constructed adjacent to the existing 20,000-square-foot building off Hansville Road. The tribe will break ground on the project Aug. 15 with hopes of opening the new casino in early 2012.
The new casino is smaller than the expansion plans discussed at a public meeting in 2007. But it’s a big step forward, Port Gamble S’Klallam Chairman Jeromy Sullivan said.
“We want economic development and we want economic growth, and we want all these things while protecting the environment,” Sullivan said.
The new casino will be built using an aluminum framework and a fabric roofing material. The design gives the future building a domelike look, but it’s no tent, Point Marketing Director Scott Laursen said. The stretched fabric roofing is sturdy, fully insulated and allows for a wide-open floor plan inside.
“It allows a wonderful amount of flexibility,” Laursen said.
The structure can also be assembled quickly. Plans call for the building to be constructed at the west side of the existing parking lot. The current Point Casino will remain open through the fall and winter, then be repurposed, Laursen said.
Plans for the new space include casual dining, a deli, expanded buffet, and a sports and cigar bar featuring a cabaret. The casino will also add an events center
capable of hosting entertainers and sporting events.
The Point will expand its existing staff of 126 employees with up to 80 new hires. Open positions will include everything from line cooks to management Laursen said. The casino will host job fairs and hiring events in coming months.
Laursen said the casino wants to provide a better experience for its existing customers while bringing in new visitors.
“We definitely want to bring it to the attention of more people, but keep that hometown feel,” he said.
The expansion shouldn’t require major changes to Hansville Road, Sullivan said. The tribe is working with Kitsap County Public Works and is interested in lengthening the turn lane on the road, north of Kingston.
Designs underwent internal reviews by tribal departments to judge its cultural and environmental impact, Sullivan said. The fabric construction requires less intensive construction and less building waste. The plan includes vegetation buffers, stormwater filtration and tree plantings.
The tribe secured financing for the project this summer through East West Bank. The tribe will contribute $5 million, which was already set aside. The total project amount isn’t being released to the public. An article in the tribe’s May newsletter said the tribe signed a terms sheet with the bank in March, the first step toward securing a $20 million loan.
Securing financing in May allowed the tribe to move forward with construction. It announced its expansion plans July 29.
The abrupt announcement surprised some. Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, said he was surprised to learn about the new expansion plans from local media. Olympic owns the town of Port Gamble and owns thousands of acres near the Port Gamble S’Klallam reservation.
Rose said his company respects tribal sovereignty and the tribe’s desire for economic development, but he wishes it would have shared its plans and environmental studies with the public.
“We find it’s challenging when we hear of major developments in our neighborhood and none of us, or our neighbors, get a chance to learn about the project,” Rose said. “There’s a lack of process, and that makes it really challenging.”
Sullivan said the new project is a continuation of plans that were discussed with the public in 2007 and that tribal members have been kept informed of progress since then. But he said his government could have done more to alert its neighbors to developments this year.
“We’ve done our best to do community outreach,” Sullivan said. “But I think we could have done a better job. I personally could have handled it better.”
Some of the more grandiose plans discussed with the public in 2007 included a 100,000-square-foot casino and an 11-story hotel. Those designs were never realistic, even before the economic recession, Sullivan said.
“It’s scaled down, it’s manageable, based on what the market can support,” Sullivan said. “We’re excited about what we can do now.”