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