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Resort enlargement progressing

WORLEY, Idaho – The Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel expansion is roughly half done and is expected to be finished early next spring.

“We had the benefit of a really mild winter and the project has moved beautifully,” said Bob Bostwick, director of public relations for the complex. “We are even a little under budget.

“We haven’t had any big problems come up to delay it. We’re looking forward to a first-class destination resort with all the things in place to do that including a spa, gourmet dining, and other facilities for entertaining our customers. All those things are going really, really well.” He gives a lot of credit to the general contractor and the project superintendent and added, “It’s on or even a little ahead of schedule.”

The expansion will cost about $75 million. It consists of two new four-story buildings containing 98 hotel rooms. This will bring total rooms up to 300. One building, that closest to the existing complex, will contain a large dining area. The other will contain a 15,000-square-foot spa and pool.

Asked about the restaurant, Bostwick said, “Gourmet steaks! We’ll have some real special steak features like the baseball sirloin. It will be the type of steak house you see in the top restaurants.

“Everything will be top shelf. The quality of rooms will be as nice as you’ll find anywhere. You see a lot of that in Indian country these days. The quality of service that will be provided in the spa, as well as the dining, will be as good as it gets.”

The casino will not be enlarged although may come in a later expansion. Bostwick explained the compact allows for considerably more machines than at present, “But this is working well the way we’re doing it. When this expansion is finished the issue of casino capacity can be better addressed.”

There will also be an expansion to the existing building complex: a giant pub area, or center piece, to be called Yap-Keehn-Um. The translation from the Coeur d’Alene language is “gathering place.”

Another major change involves landscaping. Highway 95 formerly passed immediately in front of the complex but has been moved half a mile west. Now the “front yard,” as it will be called, will cover about 10 acres of beautiful landscaping and natural amphitheaters. The grass will come down to the buildings with two new parking areas added.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any limit with what we can do,” Bostwick said. “It has the potential for concerts, for fireworks on the Fourth of July, and other outdoor and cultural events. We like to have special events for our customers with hot dogs and hamburgers or making barbeque with our smokers. It’s going to be a beautiful area for things like that.”

The expansion will add about 130 new jobs to the roughly 1,000 employees now working in the complex. Presently 25 to 30 percent of the employees are Native Americans simply because there are more jobs than there are tribal members. Other jobs have been created on the reservation in recent years as the tribe has diversified its operations.

Chief Executive Officer David LaSarte-Meeks spoke of the goals when planning for this expansion. “Our goal has been to set a new standard, to have a high-end destination resort with a very comfortable and home-like atmosphere. We tried to emphasize two things: One was to find a lot of ways to celebrate the unique culture of the Coeur d’Alene people, not just Indian culture in general, but very specifically what things make Coeur d’Alene culture special. We put a lot of effort and thought into that. Throughout the project we have little touches and big touches that are very specific to the Coeur d’Alenes.

“The other was we tried to emphasize sustainable and environmentally friendly design and construction throughout. We’re shooting for a fairly substantial ‘leed’ certification.” He explained this refers to a third party evaluation that the project meets green building and performance measures for numerous activities. Are recyclable building materials used? Is hot water from one area used to warm other areas? The higher the certification the better, and that’s what this project is aiming for. “From top to bottom it’s supposed to be environmentally friendly.”

Asked about the expansion in terms of the economic recession, LaSarte-Meeks said, “We’re doing better than a lot of markets, but we’ve certainly felt the recession. We were in a good financial situation entering the recession. When you have financial stability the recession is a good time to expand. Then when the economy comes back you’re ready to take advantage of it. So we’re pretty happy with our timing, partially through good planning and partially through some good luck. Hopefully we come on line just as the recession starts to recede.”