Casino tops off with final beam

SUQUAMISH — Looking into the sunny Friday afternoon sky, Executive Director for the Suquamish Tribe Wayne George couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“It’s been a long wait,” George said. “We’ve been told time and time again we were getting a casino and now here it is.”

George was watching construction workers fasten the last beam in place for the structure of new Clearwater Casino, which is scheduled to open this summer.

Executives of the tribal council, Port Madison Enterprises and construction companies stood in the spot where, nearly four months earlier, they threw the ceremonial first shovels of dirt for the new gaming facility.

This time, they were gathered for a “topping off” and blessing ceremony for the final beam. The group signed the steel reinforcement with their names and various phrases of good luck before the builders lifted the beam, via crane, and fastened it in place.

“I’m amazed at the devotion and dedication,” George said, noting he saw construction workers at any given time working on the site, even on a recent holiday. Many agreed that the good weather has been a great help in expediting the facilities’ progress.

During the blessing ceremony, Suquamish Tribal Chairman Bennie Armstrong recalled when he and fellow council member Willy Pratt managed a small shop in the woods that was near the location of the current casino.

“Willy and I were part of an independent economic team that started with a small smoke shop,” Armstrong said. “Twenty years later, we’re still here.”

Steven Buechler, marketing manager for the casino, said he was happy to know that the business will soon be moving out of the makeshift structure that was once just a bingo hall.

“I’m just glad to get out of the tent — we don’t have to be camping,” he said, pausing to figure out how many months it’s been since the first shovel of dirt in October. “Three and a half months and (construction) is going like mad.”

The next step includes “closing in” the building, with the construction of exterior walls and completing the installation of the air and heat ducts, said Gregory Byler of Gregory G. Byler Associates, the project’s architectural design, construction and facilities management firm.

The finished product will include an eight-story ramped covered parking garage, more than 22,000 square feet of gaming space alone and the addition of nearly 700 slot machines and 33 tables of craps, roulette and blackjack. An additional 150 employees will bring the staff number to nearly 500. The Agate Pass Cafe will continue its services in the new and expanded facility with the addition of a steakhouse for 60 diners. A 2,500-square foot entertainment lounge that will hold 200 people and a 6,700 square foot area for meetings, banquets and conventions will installed as well.

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