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Thunder Valley construction up and running

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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The Thunder Valley Casino expansion project quietly restarted last week as construction workers resumed their work at the casino. The expansion project was shelved for five months after a reevaluation in November, according to Doug Elmets, the United Auburn Indian Community spokesman. The United Auburn Indian Community owns Thunder Valley Casino. The expansion project, which originally included a 23-story hotel, a nine-story parking structure and a performing arts center, was revised to include a 15-story hotel, a seven-story parking structure and a 10,000-square-foot multipurpose room. “It meets the market demand, and it saves a lot of money,” Elmets said Tuesday. He would not comment on how much the expansion will cost the casino. The expansion project, which is set to be completed in June, 2010, will mean the addition of 400 jobs to the casino’s current staff of 1,900 as well as 500 construction jobs while the project is under way, according to Elmets. Workers will work “regular day shifts” during construction of the expansion, Elmets told the News Messenger. Speaking at Tuesday’s government affairs meeting sponsored by the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce at the Holiday Inn Express on Ferrari Ranch Road, Elmets said the casino, though not required by law to pay property tax, does pay that tax anyway and spends a significant amount of money in Placer County. That amounts to between $47 million and $48 million per year on goods and services. “Ever since the casino came in, the tribe has been very generous, a very good neighbor,” said Bob Romness, CEO of the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce and director of the Lincoln Volunteer Center. “I can’t think of a single nonprofit that hasn’t gotten help from the tribe.” Despite the current state of the economy, Elmets said Thunder Valley is doing well financially, with 8,000 to 10,000 visitors every day. “One of the industries that still seems to be doing well is the gaming industry,” Elmets said. Rosa Maria Castillo, a Sheridan resident, said the expansion “is a good thing” since it brings jobs. “With people still unemployed, it helps out the economy a lot more,” Castillo said. Lincoln resident Jody Shorkey said he doesn’t gamble but goes to the casino to eat at the buffet. “Ultimately, when it’s done, it’ll bring in jobs,” Shorkey said. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.