PHOTO: High-Dollar Renovations, Expansions at California Indian Casinos

PHOTO: High-Dollar Renovations, Expansions at California Indian Casinos

Kristin Butler

Tribes are doubling down on casino-resort expansions and renovations across Indian country — particularly in California.

This upcoming weekend, the Santa Ynez Band will celebrate two years of planning and construction on a $165 million expansion and upgrade of its Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez. Festivities will include performances by Stevie Wonder on July 31. Meanwhile the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians continues its $285-million overhaul and expansion of its resort and casino in Temecula, expected to be completed near the end of 2017.

Tribal casinos are investing millions to improve their properties to keep their loyalty card-carrying customers coming back, while attracting new players as well as non-gamblers who come for bachelor and bachelorette parties, concerts and entertainment, poolside fun, luxurious spa treatments, fine and casual dining, sports bars, and nightlife experiences.

RELATED: How 'Gamifying' Slot Machines May Help Casinos Engage Millennials

Indian Country Today Media Network rounds up the upgrades and additions in progress, and those just recently completed, at Indian casinos throughout the Sunshine State:

Chumash Casino Resort
Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians

3400 CA-246
Santa Ynez, CA 93460
(805) 686-0855

Cost: $165 million
Groundbreaking: 2014
Completion date: July 2016

More than two years of construction and $165 million later, this weekend, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians will debut 320 new rooms, including 55 new suites, in a 12-story tower featuring a rooftop pool deck, at Chumash Casino Resort, located in the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country. Other features include an expanded gaming floor, a renovated poker room (including a Higher Limits area that’s tripled in size to 7,800 square feet), an expanded spa, an upgraded Samala Showroom event space now featuring 1,400 seats, and new food outlets.

Big acts will grace the intimate events venue, including Stevie Wonder who will perform at the resort’s July 31 unveiling ceremony. The casino is also giving away a BMW i8 Hybrid to one lucky guest on July 31 at 10 p.m. to promote its grand debut. Guests also had the chance to win one of five Mini Coopers on July 4, 10, 17, 24 — and again this weekend on July 31.

The resort will also play host to its first-ever Summer Poker Series to show off its high limit poker room, which debuted in May. Tournaments will take place in the poker room and the freshly renovated Samala Showroom, from August 15-21.The series will culminate with the Chumash Casino Resort’s Grand Poker Open, a two-day, $100,000 guaranteed tournament.

“This is a room that poker players are going to appreciate on a number of levels – from the aesthetics to the service and down to the USB ports at each seat that allow players to charge their devices,” said Sean Smith, Poker Room Manager for the Chumash Casino Resort. “Our goal is to be the best place to play poker between Bay 101 (San Jose) and Commerce. And I think we can achieve that goal.”

To reflect the tribe’s traditional culture and pay tribute to their ancestors, six historically significant bronze sculptures frame the newly expanded Chumash Casino Resort. “The story of our tribe is one of perseverance, survival and adaptability,” said Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “We wanted to see our story captured in sculptures, and I believe [nature and wildlife artist] Dan Chen has done that beautifully.”

Graton Resort & Casino
Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria

288 Golf Course Dr W.
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
(707) 588-7100

Cost: $175 million
Groundbreaking: September 2015
Slated completion date: fall 2016

The tribe opened its originally $800 million megacasino in Rohnert Park, in Sonoma County’s wine country, in November 2013. Now the Bay Area’s largest gaming and entertainment destination is receiving a $175 million makeover and expansion. 

The tribe is adding accommodations including a full-service 200-guestroom hotel featuring an opulent lobby, a luxurious 10,000- square foot spa, 20,000-square feet of flexible event and convention space and an outdoor resort-style pool area. Construction has created more than 1,000 jobs.

Morongo Casino Resort & Spa
‎Morongo Band of Mission Indians

49500 Seminole Dr.
Cabazon, CA 92230
(951) 849-3080

Cost: not released
Completion date: October 2015 (high-limit gaming room)

The AAA-four-diamond-rated Morongo Casino Resort & Spa, renowned for being one of the state’s largest tribal-owned resorts, features a 27-story building that juts out of the desert between Banning and Palm Springs. At 330-feet high, its casino tower is the tallest in the Inland Empire. ‎The Morongo Band of Mission Indians opened its gaming destination in 2004, and in fall 2015 it revealed its new high-limit gaming room accented with Asian-inspired decor.

And in a recent interview with the LA Times, Morongo Chief Operating Officer John James hinted at a possible future expansion, though he wouldn’t release any details: "We want to offer an array of things for our guests. We want to keep the newness here," he told the LA Times.

Pala Casino
Pala Band of Mission Indians

11154 California 76
Pala, CA 92059
(877) 946-7252

Cost: $5.7 million
Groundbreaking: January 2016
Completed: May 2016

Pala Casino first opened its doors in April 2001, and recently underwent a $5.7 million expansion, adding a lavish underground dining and entertainment venue. The addition followed its $100 million expansion and renovation in 2009.

The revamp includes a new stage for the outdoor Starlight Theatre, new patio lounge Luis Rey’s, and the new CAVE fine-dining restaurant, bar and lounge. Pala Chief Executive Officer Bill Bembenek told that it’s “the only underground entertainment venue of its kind in San Diego County.”

RELATED: Camp in Style: $5.6M RV Resort Coming to Pala Casino

Pechanga Resort & Casino
Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians

45000 Pechanga Pkwy
Temecula, CA 92592
(951) 693-1819

Cost: $285 million
Groundbreaking: December 2015
Slated completion date: 2017

The Pechanga Band is putting $285 million into a 800,000-square-feet expansion of its Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, a growing destination for wine and music enthusiasts, located roughly 60 miles north of San Diego. The resort expansion project involves adding a AAA Four Diamond, 568-room hotel wing; a standalone luxury two-story spa and salon with 17 treatment rooms, a fitness center and hydrotherapy pool terrace; a resort-style pool complex with eight pool areas; two new restaurants; and an additional 67,000 square feet of event space. Pechanga Resort & Casino is the largest resort/casino in California and employs roughly 4,000 team members.

RELATED: Pechanga, Temecula City Ink Agreement on $285M Resort Expansion

San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino
San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

777 San Manuel Blvd.
Highland, CA 92346  
(800) 359-2464

Cost: $50 million
Groundbreaking: 2014
Slated completion date: February 2016

San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino’s $50 million expansion blends the principles of feng shui, wabi-sabi and zen across its 5,000-square-foot gaming floor, dubbed Lotus 8 Palace. Joining over 60 of the best video slots, pai gow, baccarat, and blackjack is a stunning lounge area featuring Asian cuisine, a digital koi pond, zen garden, and a living wall, creating a beautiful space for guests to enjoy a high-end gaming experience.

“For the past 18 months, we have been elevating our gaming experience with new and updated amenities, but with this room, our team has outdone themselves. This is unlike anything you’ve seen in gaming,” General Manager Loren Gill said.

Thunder Valley Casino Resort
United Auburn Indian Community

1200 Athens Ave.
Lincoln, CA 95648
(916) 408-7777

Cost: not released
Groundbreaking: 2016
Slated completion date: summer 2017

Thunder Valley Casino Resort is adding 111 luxury rooms and suites to its hotel, in addition to completely renovating its existing 297 rooms within its 17-story tower. Oversized marble bathrooms with European spa showers, in-room dining services and more will round out the AAA Four Diamond resort’s luxury offerings. 

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