ROHNERT PARK -- The massive $800 million Graton Resort and Casino today reached a key phase in construction, as hundreds of workers and officials involved in the project celebrated a "topping out" ceremony.

[caption id="attachment_67318" align="alignright" width="400"] A worker positions the beam used in the "topping off" ceremony on Tuesday.[/caption]

A crane hoisted a 75-foot-long, six-ton steel beam into position near the future entrance to the structure as part of the ceremony, signifying completion and commencement to the next phase of construction.

The event was attended by backers of the project, including labor union leaders and Las Vegas-based Station Casinos. The latter will manage the property for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, which received approval to build the casino and hotel last May and began major construction in August.  The project broke ground last June.

Members of the tribe 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.

[caption id="attachment_67315" align="alignleft" width="448"] 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.[/caption]

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 and Mr. Hasson said it was too soon to say exactly when.

Construction of the casino 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.

Upon completion, the casino is expected to create some 2,000 permanent jobs, many of which will also be union positions.

 "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, located on Wifred Avenue in western Rohnert Park. The road itself will be upgraded to handle increased capacity as part of the construction.

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.

Mr. Hasson will be based in Rohnert Park and has about 30 years of experience in the gaming industry. He said Station Casinos is putting together marketing material for the resort and that the casino anticipates it will attract visitors from a wide swath of the region, possibly even from the Sacramento region.

"We'll certainly draw from the Bay Area and a radius of that size," he said. The group has familiarity with the region, having managed another Northern California casino. Since the group is no longer involved with that casino, Mr. Hasson declined to reveal the name.

Station Casinos is also involved in a 2,000-slot casino project near Madera, working with the North Fork Rancheria of the Mono Tribe, according to an Aug. 31 gaming pact announcement by Gov. Jerry Brown and first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The facility will feature a wide range of gaming, including table games, a poker room, slot machines and video poker, along with a number of dining and bars and lounge venues.

"You're building a future that's very bright," Mr. Hasson said to hundreds of local union construction workers assembled at the event.

Correction, Jan. 9, 2013: Station Casinos was working with  North Fork Rancheria of the Mono Tribe project near Madera. An earlier version of the story had incorrect information.