ARLINGTON – “The World’s Friendliest Casino” at Angel of the Winds north of Arlington now has “The World’s Friendliest Hotel.”
That is according to Jeanine Russell, one of the Stillaguamish tribal members who stayed at the $27 million hotel on its opening night Dec. 15.
“The employees are so accommodating,” she said. “And it’s absolutely gorgeous.”
General Manager Travis O’Neil said things went so well that the hotel plans to open for business earlier than previously announced – on Friday, Dec. 19. Cost of the 125 rooms over the five floors ranges from $114 to $279 a night.
LaVaun Tatro, whose house used to be where the smoke shop now is, said it was an honor to stay there opening night.
“We’ve come a long way,” she said of the tribe. “I’m very proud. Everything is so nice.”
Iris Meyer said the hotel is fantastic.
“It’s finally here,” she said. “They worked really hard for this. My dad would have loved to see it.”
Stephanie Blount said she does a lot of traveling, to Las Vegas up to three times a year, for example, and she said the hotel is top rate.
“The decor is both modern and rustic,” she said, adding she enjoyed the furnishings, artwork and photographs of nature in the surrounding area. “It doesn’t feel like a casino hotel to me.”
O’Neil said it was very important for the elders to stay there the first night.
“Those were their houses” that were torn down to make room for the hotel-casino, he said.
The Stillaguamish opened the casino 10 years ago. The tribe didn’t have enough land for a casino until the tribal council decided to clear out a housing development in the early 2000s where the casino, hotel, gas station and smoke shop now sit.
O’Neil said the hotel is ready to go, except for some minor decor additions. So while online reservations won’t start until Jan. 2, 2015, the staff is hired and excited to work.
Only one staff member is from the tribe. O’Neil said he would like more, but they all have other careers as the Stillaguamish were late joining the gaming industry. The 280 tribal members are spread out all over the country. Blount, Russell and Meyer represent three generations of the tribe who now live in Alaska and came down just for the hotel opening.
O’Neil wanted to emphasize that all of the construction is done not only at the hotel but also in the surrounding area, so traffic is no longer a problem.
“We had construction on top of construction,” he said. “It’s easier access now.”
One item that has not been built yet is a pool, which will go in to the west of the casino. But that work won’t start until spring or summer, O’Neil said.
The hotel offers a meeting room for up to 16 people. There is also a workout room, although O’Neil is still waiting on the weights.
The tribe had around 30 employees in the mid-1990s. Now, tribal administration employs 250 and the casino, gas station and smoke shop employ another 500. The casino added 57 employees to staff the hotel.