North Bay Business Journal

Monday, January 14, 2013, 6:55 am

RP casino expected to generate 2,000 jobs

Project set to be completed in late 2013


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    ROHNERT PARK — In roughly a year’s time, Sonoma County will be home to the Bay Area’s largest casino, a prospect that has some people and businesses anticipating a significant economic boon to the region while others still vow to block a project in the making since 2003.

    The massive $800 million Graton Resort and Casino last week reached a key phase in construction. Backers of the project — including labor leaders and Station Casinos, which will manage the property for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria — celebrated a “topping off” of the project with the hoisting of a 75-foot-long, six-ton steel beam into position near the future entrance to the structure, signifying commencement to the next phase of construction.

    Upon completion, the casino is expected to create some 2,000 permanent jobs.

    Graton Casino toppng off positioning

    A worker positions the beam used in the “topping off” ceremony.

    The tribe received approval to build the casino and hotel last May and began major construction in August. The project broke ground last June. Tribe members didn’t attend the ceremony.

    “This is an enormous undertaking that will be one of the signature projects of Sonoma County,” said Jeff Janakus, who is overseeing construction of the casino as vice president of design and construction for Station Casinos.

    The project calls for a 3,000-slot casino and 200-room hotel and will include a number of other amenities, including a resort and five-story parking structure.

    Joe Hasson of Graton Casino

    Joe Hasson, vice president and general manager of the Graton Resort and Casino, addresses workers and officials assembled for the “topping off” ceremony at the project site in western Rohnert Park on Tuesday.

    Joe Hasson, vice president and general manager of the Graton Resort and Casino, said he expects the project to be completed by the end of 2013.

    “We’re now really full speed ahead,” he said. The hotel portion of the project will be completed somewhat later than the casino, but Mr. Hasson said it was too soon to say exactly when.

    But while construction quickly moves forward, the project still faces legal challenges from the local group Stop the Casino 101 Coalition.

    “We’ve always been opposed to the location,” said Marilee Montgomery, a group spokeswoman who lives near the site. “It’s a very environmentally sensitive area, and because it’s too close to homes and churches. That’s been our main thrust.”

    The group has filed two lawsuits in its efforts to either stop or slow construction. The first is a California Environmental Quality Act suit against the city of Rohnert Park for allowing the tribe and Station Casinos to widen Wilfred Avenue, which is known to have endangered California tiger salamanders living nearby. The city didn’t conduct any environmental impact review, Ms. Montgomery said.

    The second lawsuit challenges the validity of the Graton Rancheria compact approved by Gov. Jerry Brown, charging that he lacked the proper authority to enter into a compact with the tribe for a Class III casino. The coalition maintains that the state legislature must cede sovereignty over the land to the federal government with a vote. “This has not been done with the Rohnert Park casino land,” the group said.

    Both lawsuits are still pending, and Ms. Montgomery said the latter suit, should the coalition win, would halt construction at the 254-acre site. She added that opposition is centered primarily on the location, and that the group has offered to help the tribe find another, more suitable space.

    Nevertheless, the tribe and Station Casinos, along with labor unions working on the project, are moving forward, citing the economic benefits of both the constructing of the facility and of additional tax revenues for Rohnert Park and the county.

    Sonoma County supervisors struck a deal with the casino that would provide at least $9 million annually to offset impacts of the project, plus as much as $38 million more per year if the casino is sufficiently profitable. The city of Rohnert Park struck its own deal that will provide a 20-year, $200 million revenue-sharing contract with the tribe and casino.

    Additionally, the tribe will allocate 15 percent of net earnings from gambling to a state fund for the first seven years of operation. Thereafter, it drops to 12 percent.

    Construction is expected to employ more than 700 local workers throughout various phases, much of it the result of a project labor agreement between Station Casinos and local labor unions, according to Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, which is affiliated with AFL-CIO.

    “It really puts local guys to work,” said Chris Snyder, district representative for Operating Engineers Local No. 3, an affiliate of AFL-CIO. “Station (Casinos) could have brought their own crew. It’s been really great for local employment.”

    The project will also utilize dozens of local subcontractors, among them Ghilotti Brothers, Oak Grove Construction, Shamrock Construction and Castle Concrete Pumping. The general contractor is Sylmar-based Tutor Pereni Building Corp. Providing additional construction support is Redwood City-based Rudolph and Sletten.

    It will take an estimated 700,000 labor hours to construct the 320,000-square-foot facility. Other highlights of the project include the use of 31,100 tons of structural steel, 14,000 cubic yards of concrete, 500 tons of iron reinforcing bar, 230,000 cubic yards of dirt, 289 miles of copper wire and 975,000 square feet of interior gypsum wallboard.

    The casino anticipates attracting visitors from a wide area, possibly even from the Sacramento region.

    “We’ll certainly draw from the Bay Area and a radius of that size,” Mr. Hasson said.

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    1. January 14, 2013, 8:53 am

      by Patrick Schafer

      What kind of Indians would build on wetlands????

    2. January 14, 2013, 9:53 am

      by Stop the Casino 101 COalition

      What Dan failed to make clear is that even in the casino does open, a win in court will mean a court order that would padlock the casino doors forever. It doesn’t matter if its built, what matters is what the courts do. This lawsuit, which we will take all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary, has the chops to stop the Graton Rancheria casino in its tracks. Graton can still install bingo machines and make good money from them. A bingo parlor won’t attract the crowds a Class III casino would, and the impact on our region would be far less. When the casino patrons are shooed out by state police (as happened in Texas), when the doors are padlocked and the slot machines and gaming tables removed, this casino will become the biggest bingo parlor in U.S. history. You can read more on our web site.

    3. January 14, 2013, 10:28 am

      by Johnny Wire

      I wonder how gambling and casinoes, in general, truly line up with traditional Native American beliefs and culture.

    4. January 14, 2013, 1:31 pm

      by Tom Curtis

      I’m so grateful for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, The City of Rohnert Park, The County and State for the leadership in taking this project forward.. The prospect that has some people and businesses anticipating a significant economic benefits to the region. Thank you for putting up with the frivolous lawsuits, Thank you for dealing with the mitigation issues, Thank you for the public safety in the last couple of years with taking 26 plus guns off the streets, the pounds of drugs, the repeat offenders, The prison guard uniform comes to my mind in one felony arrest, Thank you!.

      Thank you for the money to help with the parks and open spaces, Thank you for the local jobs! The list is to long of why I’m so grateful.
      Tom Curtis

    5. January 15, 2013, 1:03 pm

      by boethius

      I suppose one never tires of the “Stop the Casino 101 Coalition’s” pointless bloviating.

      Or something.

      Fortunately or unfortunately they have very bad lawyers who can’t seem to read the executed agreements between FIGR and the State of California and FIGR and the Federal Government.

      Fortunately judges can read the executed agreements. The casino will be operational. Guaranteed.

      All “proof” to the contrary – and if you go the web site they love to flog on these boards you’ll see a lot of “proof” that some government or tribal entity is up to its ears in some sort of malfeasance – the Casino is being built and will be in full operation by the end of this year. One example of this “proof” among many is their contention that the FIGR land in Federal trust off Willis Ave/Golf Course is in fact protected wildlife habitat for the Tiger Salamander and therefore it’s “illegal” to build the casino there.

      One merely needs to go the Federal Government’s own GIS mapping site to extract actual proof that in fact the FIGR trust land was explicitly excluded from the Tiger Salamander habitat designation – for obvious reasons. The Feds and FIGR never would have agreed to simultaneously set aside the land in trust and exclude it from usage by the tribe because of the habitat designation.

      In short, they invent “proof” where there is none and conveniently exclude actual, real facts when it doesn’t suit their version of reality.

      The casino will never be “padlocked.” Mark that. Hack lawyers notwithstanding, the opposition has had over a decade to make its case against FIGR and the casino. The site has moved a couple times as it is. Rohnert Park’s citizens put the casino to a vote and they agreed they wanted it. FIGR/Station Casinos received nearly a billion in secured debt to finance the casino’s construction and operation in a matter of days. That wouldn’t have happened if there was a whiff that the build and operation could be halted by a hack correspondence school lawyer from Petaluma. The SCOTUS will not only not intervene I guarantee they’ll never even hear the case. It will be up and running by the end of this year. Like it or not – and clearly some will not – the Graton Casino is coming.

    6. January 18, 2013, 11:00 am

      by robbie gardino

      i have been in the casino ind, for 30 yrs, the new casino in rohnert park. will have so many positive things for all, not just the 2000 jobs. but will also effect the intire economic up turn for all the region, nothing but good will come of the graton rancheria casino, thanks, r gardino

    7. February 9, 2013, 5:49 pm

      by Fatday

      I can’t wait for the opening of this casino. It will bring jobs to the local community. For myself, I enjoy the casino enviornment playing for short periods of time at the black jack table. I hope to be there for the grand opening.

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