Milestone for hotel construction reached

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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The hotel at Thunder Valley has reached its final construction height, and the casino celebrated Friday with a luncheon to thank the approximately 500 workers who made it possible. “This is huge,” said Richard St. Jean, general manager of Thunder Valley. “It’s really pivotal now. When people come back in a year, you’ll see a full-fledged resort. This is a major milestone.” St. Jean said that a topping-off ceremony is typically a construction event, but this one meant something more. “Symbolically, what this represents is a four-diamond hotel opening next July.” That hotel, along with the planned entertainment center, will provide “your typical Las Vegas experience” in Placer County. “We will deliver a wonderful new hotel,” said John Suehead, vice chair of the United Auburn Indian Community Tribal Council. Suehead added that ever since the casino’s opening in 2003, guests have been asking for a hotel. “It means a lot for the tribe,” said Jessica Tavares, chairwoman of the Tribal Council. “To even be here is amazing with the economy so bad, and to be able to bring the hotel in is very exciting.” According to Jeff Johnson, project superintendent for The Penta Building Group, the hardest part is done – now that the skeleton is erected, the rest of the project will consist of building interior walls, wiring, electrical, plumbing and creating the interiors of the 400 rooms. “This is really an appreciation for the workers,” Johnson said. Following formal thank-you speeches from the United Auburn Indian Community and Thunder Valley executives, several hundred construction workers were treated to lunch in what will become the resort’s entertainment venue. Kevin Thorstenson, vice president of hotel operations, said everyone is glad to get the building enclosed and be out of the hot sun. Adjoining the hotel is the new seven-story “smart” parking structure, which will include 3,800 parking spaces and will be able to let drivers know which floors have open parking spaces, Thorstenson said. The parking structure will be completed several months in advance of the hotel’s opening, making it ready in April, said Doug Elmets, spokesman for Thunder Valley and the tribe. Steve Iddings of Rescue has been working on the construction project all along. “It’s great that this is going on,” Iddings said, adding that in the increasingly difficult job market, he is happy to have a steady job. “It keeps a roof over our heads,” said Scott Coverick of Roseville. “It’s a job, really, and it’s security.” Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at