Thunder Valley expansion good for local economy

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Restarting Thunder Valley Casino’s expansion project, after a two-month hiatus, brings a number of positive aspects for Lincoln, according to City Councilman Kent Nakata. The project will incorporate a 400-room, 15-story hotel, a 10,000 square-foot multipurpose entertainment center and a seven-story parking garage. The scheduled completion date is 2010. Put on hold last November, the project has been scaled back. Work is set to resume in mid-April and is estimated to create 500 construction jobs in the area, according to Doug Elmets, spokesman for the United Auburn Indian Community, which owns and operates Thunder Valley. “They’re good neighbors,” Nakata said Feb. 19. “They’re involved with lots of nonprofits in the city. Secondly, such major construction brings money to the city of Lincoln. Also, they’re pretty active in their internal security so we don’t get crime spilling over into Lincoln.” Nakata added that having the finished resort project in Lincoln will help make the city more of a destination in the area. When gamblers stay at the planned hotel, Nakata said, they can’t gamble 24 hours a day and there are many places within the city where they can spend their money. “It’s a very significant shot in the arm for economic development,” County Supervisor Robert Weygandt agreed. “It would be good even in good economic times, but in these times, it’s really good.” Weygandt added that the expansion will have “significant local economic impact” in both the short run and the long run. Workers will spend their money here, Weygandt said, and about 300 permanent jobs will be created when the project is finished. Those jobs will be “quality jobs” paying adequate wages with benefits, according to Weygandt. “It’s obviously a significant entertainment destination for many people,” Weygandt said, adding that Thunder Valley draws patrons from out of the county to spend money in the county. Some Lincoln residents on Monday agreed that the restarting of the expansion project is a positive development for the area. “I think it’s good,” said Lincoln Resident Betty Ott. “It shows they believe in the future and the economy getting better.” Don Livingstone moved to Lincoln five months ago after his wife retired from IBM. “I think it’s great,” Livingstone said. Livingstone, who can drive buses, limousines and trucks, said he is “having a hard time finding work” since moving here. He hopes the expansion project’s creation of jobs will increase employment. “It’s going to bring more to the economy,” Livingstone said. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at