TULALIP – On a three count, shovels dug in and mined some gold.
That’s the good fortune the Tulalip Tribes hopes to see after breaking ground Tuesday on a new $140 million replacement for Quil Ceda Creek Casino.
The new 120,000-square-foot casino, known as “QCC2,” will be built on 15 acres across Marine View Drive from the existing casino at 6410 33 Ave. NE.
Amenities will include a spacious gaming floor with 1,500 slot machines and more table games, state-of-the-art smoke elimination system, an innovative new dining hall, an entertainment venue, 150-room hotel and 1,200-stall covered parking garage.
“We believe this is going to be the best casino hotel property in the Northwest,” said Teresa Jira, the casino’s executive president. She addressed some 200 dignitaries and other guests at the ceremony, including employees from the Quil Ceda Creek and Tulalip Resort casinos.
“This is a very historic day,” Tribal Board Director Mel Sheldon Jr. said.
Tulalip drummers and singers opened the ceremonies, followed by a blessing, and raised hands to tribal elders and veterans.
Chairwoman Marie Zackuse was taking care of an ailing family member, so was unable to attend.
Vice Chairwoman Teri Gobin, who has an extensive background in tribal employment and putting people to work, said the project will deliver jobs and economic development for the tribes. Already, 2,400 employees work at their two casinos and bingo hall.
Gobin said, “This will be a good project for our community and the surrounding communities that benefit.”
Les Parks, tribal board member and business chairman, talked about the early days when bingo made room for gaming.
“Back in 1983 we opened up that tiny little bingo hall across the street,” Parks said. “We got off on the right foot there.”
Ten years later, Tulalip signed the first gaming compact in Washington state to open a casino and table games. They initially opened a casino that took up half the space in the building before bingo moved to its own facility on Quil Ceda Boulevard.
The tribes built the Tulalip Resort Casino in 2004 and added a 12-story hotel in 2008 at Quil Ceda Village.
There were no doubts that it was time to construct a larger Quil Ceda Creek Casino.
“That little building was bursting at the seams,” Parks said. “The revenue cannot grow there any more. They’re using every square foot of floor space they can, and have gotten as much out of the casino as they can get.”
QCC2 will be a little less than two-thirds the size of the 192,000-square-foot Tulalip Casino.
Parks said the groundbreaking date set in motion relocation of the tribal court and police department into their larger and newly remodeled offices in the former Hewlitt-Packard building across the street to the west.
When the Tulalips did an analysis of their nearest North Sound competitors, Sheldon said, it was clear “we had to do this.”
The new hotel will also feature a VIP/Business Lounge, coffee bar, additional special event and meeting facilities with a catering kitchen and recreation space that includes a pool and spa/exercise room. The innovative design of the new hotel accommodates potential future expansion.
Ken Kettler, president and chief operating office of Tulalip Resort Casino, who has been there 12 years, said he remembers listening to tribal elder Stan Jones say ‘Stay the course’, and we did.”
Kettler said they did look at other casinos and, at the Quil Ceda Casino, it got to the point where people were parking on the road, so they expanded the parking area. Four years ago, they reconfigured the floor and gave the casino a facelift, but the capacity and demand for business led them to the conclusion that the newer expansion was necessary.
“North Snohomish is going to continue to grow by leaps and bounds, and we’re a locals joint, as we say,” Kettler said. Staff at the Quil work to create personal relationships with guests. “It’s like Cheers, where everybody knows your name.”
Kettler said they took customers’ expectations in hand when planning the new casino, wanting to create an atmosphere of “not just bigger and better – there’s more to love. We’re expanding, and we’re going to give you more of it.”
The tribes will tear down the current casino when the new one opens, but haven’t said what will be built on the old site.