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Silver Reef breaks ground on expansion

Hotel-casino-spa in good position as Olympics near

LUMMI, Wash. - The Silver Reef Hotel, Casino and Spa broke ground May 29 on its latest expansion, almost two years to the day since the 105-room hotel and spa opened.

''It's amazing to know that in such a short amount of time, we've been fortunate to be able to expand for the third time,'' general manager Harlan Oppenheim said in a press release.

The groundbreaking ceremony included blessing songs from the Tom Family. Refreshments followed.

This latest expansion will provide an additional 9,000 square feet of space, which will allow an additional 200-plus slot machines - for a total of almost 900 - and the new Pizzanini Restaurant. Also, the Gold Rush Bakery & Deli will be converted to a specialty coffee bar.

With the 2010 Winter Olympics scheduled to begin in 18 months in Vancouver, British Columbia, the expansion is timely.

Silver Reef's casino opened April 9, 2002; the hotel and spa opened in August 2006. Combined, the facility employs more than 550 employees and hosted more than 1 million guests in 2007 - about 1,818 guests per employee.

The hotel has 105 guest rooms, four suites, an indoor pool and an executive boardroom. Dining ranges from elegant, The Steak House at Silver Reef, to casual - Panasia, Red River Cafe and Terrace Bar. The Portage Bay Bar & Lounge also has dining and live entertainment.

The Spa at Silver Reef has a fitness center, sauna, steam room, treatment rooms and whirlpool.

The Silver Reef Pavilion offers big-name entertainment; Christopher Cross, the Oscar/Grammy/Golden Globe-winning singer, was scheduled to perform there June 14.

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Silver Reef is located less than two miles west of Interstate 5 and about 45 miles south of the nearest Olympic venues.

''We are already fielding phone calls [for rooms] from outside the country,'' said Marketing Director Aaron Thomas. ''2010 is going to be an overwhelming experience for us. We've been participating in 2010 meetings in the U.S. and Canada and we're doing a lot of research to keep our fingers on the pulse.''

To accommodate the environmental impacts of its own current and anticipated growth, Silver Reef has adopted some green policies. Its administration created a Green Team, consisting of various department members designated for distributing information to line employees.

''We want to do our part in conserving energy and recycling where we are able,'' Oppenheim said. ''In order for us to reach our goals, each and every one of us needs to participate by knowing what they can do to help.''

On a weekly basis, more than 20 totes of glass and plastic bottles, six totes of paper and four totes of shredded documents are recycled, Thomas said. Each tote equals 64 gallons.

Each administrative office has blue recycle containers. Soon, the casino floor will have the blue recycle containers available for patrons to use.

Silver Reef employees now use their own mugs or reusable plastic cups for their coffee, eliminating an estimated 20,000 plastic foam cups a month.

This summer, beginning with the Panasia Restaurant, leftover food will be sent to the Food Recycle Pilot Program in nearby Lynden to be composted.

In selected guest restrooms, air dryers will be installed on a trial basis to reduce paper towel usage. And incandescent lights are being replaced with high-efficiency light bulbs to conserve more energy.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at