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Large project to expand Coeur d’Alene Casino

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WORLEY, Idaho – The Coeur d’Alene Tribe recently announced the seventh and largest expansion of its casino/hotel complex. This latest expansion is expected to be finished in June 2011 at a cost of $75 million.

“About 15 years ago we saw the first renderings of a new bingo hall. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe had a dream, a dream to provide employment for our people. A dream to make dollars for our people so we could venture out into other areas and meet the needs of our people and doing what we could for our reservation and becoming self-sufficient. As you can see, those dreams and the visions our ancestors had and the leadership had at that time, have become a reality many times over,” said Ernie Stensgar, tribal council vice chairman.

“After all these years we’re happy to say we’ve contributed millions of dollars to education, built new homes for our people and are building more, and created new economic endeavors across the reservation that will employ our people and provide for them a good life.”

Photo by Jack McNeel Ernie Stensgar spoke during the press conference to announce expansion plans for the Coeur d’Alene Hotel/Casino complex.

The new expansion will add 105 hotel rooms with a fitness center and will require two new wings. The rooms “will be competitive with 4 and 5 star ratings,” according to Casino Resort CEO David Lasarte-Meeks. Guests will view Circling Raven Golf Club, the wetlands adjoining, and the rolling grasslands and fields of the Palouse Prairie. A 15,000-square-foot “destination level” spa will be included in the new hotel facilities. A gourmet steakhouse and restaurant will add to existing dining options.

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The entire front of the complex will take on a new appearance with a promenade extending across the entire front of the hotel buildings and casino for a walking area with entrances from it into various venues. The highway that formerly fronted the building has been removed and the area will now be redesigned into additional wooded parking and landscaping with several amphitheaters.

All new construction activities will be in concert with “going green.” Some of those activities include a new water treatment facility which will put an end to existing holding ponds. That water can be recycled for irrigation and other uses. The highway removal allows restoration of natural habitat. Parking lots will include storm water swales for amenities and to pick up runoff from parking areas. That water will be cleaned naturally before reentering wetlands and creeks. Landscaping will be with drought tolerant plants to reduce water usage. The building design will provide daylight and views from 90 percent of the area occupied by guests and workers to connect people with the surrounding natural environment.

LaSarte-Meeks said the goal when the casino first opened was to create jobs and economic opportunity for tribal members, “and we’ve succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. We have hundreds of tribal members who are working plus hundreds from other tribes and hundreds of non-Indians working here. I don’t think anyone ever foresaw that we would become the biggest, or one of the biggest, employers in the whole region.

“We have an economic recession and economic troubles worldwide and around the U.S. but here on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation we still see steady growth. Casinos around the country are seeing 25 percent, 50 percent cuts in their revenues. Here we’re still growing, still seeing steady growth. Our first six months this year we’re 12 percent ahead of the same time last year. Because of that growth we’re able to trot out this major expansion that will make us a unique offering in the country or certainly in the Pacific Northwest.”

The expansion is expected to add 150 new jobs to the roughly 900 currently employed. The total number of hotel rooms will increase to more than 300. Future expansions are also being considered to add a new convention and conference center – but that will be part of expansion number eight. As tribal Chief James Allan commented, “If you’re sitting still, you’re dead on arrival.”

“When we’re done it will be something the tribe can be proud of, building on the success of our past, and something the whole region can look at and see what we’ve done in these times and say, ‘there’s someone who is leading the way, leading the charge for the next rejuvenation and something everyone can take pride in,’” LaSarte-Meeks said. “I challenge anyone in the country to match it.”