LITTLE BOSTON — When plans were unveiled for The Point Hotel in July 2015, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe General Manager Kelly Sullivan said the Tribe wanted to “create an experience [visitors] aren’t going to find elsewhere.”
The hotel, which opened Nov. 25, does just that.
When visitors arrive, their first sight is of S’Klallam artist Brian Perry’s dramatic, four-story steel sculpture, “Paddles Up,” a reference to a Coast Salish form of welcome. Inside, the 94-room Point has a boutique hotel feel, with midcentury furnishings and Coast Salish art throughout. Windows provide generous views of a forest and a plaza ringed by story poles by noted Northwest Native artists.
The hotel is a window into Coast Salish and S’Klallam culture — and the new Port Gamble S’Klallam economy as well.
Gaming provided the seed money for the Tribe’s economic growth, but it took patience and vision to make this happen.
It wasn’t long ago, former Port Gamble S’Klallam chairman Jake Jones said in an earlier interview, that the Tribe had $2,000 in the bank, its housing authority couldn’t get bank loans to fund new-home construction, and the roads on the reservation were dirt.
“Our enterprises were shellfish and salmon,” Jones said then. “All of us worked out at the mill. Then the mill shut down.”
Empowered by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe began building a new economy.
“We talked about a hotel then, but we had to build our own enterprises first,” Jones said in the earlier interview. “We built the casino first, and when we started making money, we built the store. Those enterprises helped the Tribe build funds so it could afford to (borrow). Now, we’re doing much better financially. We don’t have to depend on the outside anymore.”
The new S’Klallam economy is diverse. In addition to The Point Casino &Hotel, the Tribe’s economic ventures include Gliding Eagle Market, Heronswood, and Market Fresh Catering.
Jeromy Sullivan, the Tribe’s 40-ish chairman who remembers well those dirt roads, said revenues generated by economic development have bolstered the Tribe’s public services, among them children and family services, courts, cultural resources, education, health services, natural resources, public safety, public works, and utilities. Revenues have also bolstered the Tribe’s efforts to expand its land base and its charitable efforts on and off the reservation.
Before the hotel opened, the Tribe was one of the top 20 private-sector employers in Kitsap County. The hotel will create 35-40 jobs, boosting the number of people employed by the Tribe to 500, according to employment numbers posted by the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance. That would put the Tribe fourth in the “Other Public Employers” category, just behind the Suquamish Tribe.
The Point Hotel (www.thepointcasinoandhotel.com) is the second-largest hotel and one of five in North Kitsap. The largest, Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, has 183 guest rooms. The Poulsbo Inn &Suites, on Highway 305, has 83 guest rooms. The Guesthouse Inn &Suites, next to Poulsbo Village, has 63 rooms. The Blue Water Inn, on Highway 104 in Kingston, has 20 rooms.
Guests at The Point have access to live entertainment in the event center and the Boom Room Lounge; dining in the Market Fresh Restaurant, Point Julia Cafe, or the more upscale Little Boston Bistro; and tours and events at Heronswood.
The Point is not all about gaming. “It’s hospitality,” said Chris Placentia, CEO of Noo-Kayet Development Corporation, the Tribe’s economic development arm. “We want to expand our area of influence so that if gaming ever goes away, the hotel is viable.” (Don’t expect gaming to go away. The casino has seen double-digit growth for several years, officials said.)
Besides dining and entertainment, the hotel itself is worth visiting. The landscaping was overseen by famed horticulturalist Dan Hinkley, who founded and now manages Heronswood for the Tribe. The hotel’s open spaces feature multimedia presentations and displays of ancestral objects, as well as modern pieces created by Tribal members.
Outside, the floor of the plaza has a design resembling a Coast Salish spindle whorl, designed by Perry. A central fire pit contributes to the plaza’s ambience as an inviting outdoor gathering place.
Overall, The Point gives the vibe of being a destination for culture, relaxation, a nice dinner and entertainment. And if you like gaming, well, there’s that too.
“Millennials are not as into pushing a button on a slot machine,” Point Casino general manager Leo Culloo said in an earlier interview. Casino-hotel guests in Nevada spend more on food and entertainment than they do on gaming, and Culloo said the desire for a broader experience is influencing the diversification here.