SUQUAMISH — A six-year dream for the Suquamish Tribe and Port Madison Enterprises came true Monday morning with a shovel of dirt.
Members of the Tribe Council, PME Board of Directors and executive employees of the casino broke ground at the future site of the new Suquamish Clearwater Casino and Bingo, with expectations to cut the ribbon for the grand opening next July.
Land near the current site has been leveled during the past few months and construction workers have been installing the storm water management system, said Gregory Byler of Gregory G. Byler Associates, the project’s architectural design, construction and facilities management firm.
On Monday, crews began excavating the footing for the building, Byler said. The site has also been secured to prepare for the rainy months ahead. Construction is slated to continue through the winter season.
The overall cost of the project is about $32 million, said Rich Purser, president of the PME Board of Directors. The Suquamish has acquired loans to help pay for the new facility and will use tribal resources as well. Loans will be paid off by using proceeds from the casino, Purser added.
“We’ve outgrown this tent,” said Gale Coyne, general manager for the casino, speaking of the current facilities.
Coyne explained that the space inside the existing tent has been utilized as much as possible and the casino is thrilled to finally get the new facility.
The current casino will continue running until the new structure is fully usable. According to the design plans, the building and tent will be taken down and the area will be made into a 300-space parking lot.
In addition, an eight-story ramped covered parking garage that will hold nearly 1,000 vehicles will be constructed on the site. The garage will be within 200 feet of the casino entrance and will include elevator service directly to the casino floor.
As for the gaming facility itself, the main gaming floor alone will measure 22,224 square feet — the current facility is 18,180, said to Jay Mills, the electronic gaming manager.
New machines will be installed, including 675 slots and 33 tables of craps, roulette and blackjack, among others. The casino is bringing back poker as well and a four-table poker room will be installed.
There will also be a 250-square-foot keno lounge and an expanded bingo hall, which will double the size of the current bingo space. An additional 150 employees will be hired on, bringing the staff number to nearly 500.
The Agate Pass Cafe will continue its services in the new and larger facilities with the usual buffet. A steak house, capable of seating 60 diners, will be added to the dining facilities. A 2,500-square-foot entertainment lounge will have seating for 200 guests and space for dancing. An additional 6,700-square-foot area will be available for meetings, banquets and conventions.
“We’re very excited,” said Linda Holt, vice-chairwoman for Tribal Council, noting that proceeds from the casino go back into the tribe and will able to provide even more funding for Suquamish programs.