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Thunder Valley expansion takes on an aggressive schedule

By: Brandon Darnell
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Construction is well under way on the Thunder Valley Casino expansion project, with cranes rising above the framework and workers currently constructing the third floor of the hotel. “There’s no question the construction has begun, and it’s obviously a pretty aggressive construction schedule,” said Doug Elmets, spokesman for the casino and the United Auburn Indian Community. The purpose for the expansion project, which includes the 23-story hotel housing 650 rooms, nine-story parking structure that will accommodate 5,000 cars and a performing arts center, is to give the patrons from places such as the San Francisco Bay area a place to stay. “It’s quite a trek from the Bay,” Elmets said. “The beauty of Thunder Valley is that it’s between San Francisco and Reno on the I-80 corridor and it’s below the snow line.” The first thing guests asked about when the casino initially opened was where the hotel was and where the entertainment was. “We’re bringing that to them now,” Elmets said. When the hotel is complete, it will fall within a four- or five-star rating, according to a press release. The rooms and interior decorations were designed by the same people who have worked for the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons chains, Elmets said. The largest room will be 3,000 square feet, bigger than many houses. The ceilings are between 10 and 12 feet tall, making the rooms feel more spacious and elegant. “There will be nothing else like it in this entire region,” Elmets said. The hotel is projected to open in 2010 and the performing arts center and parking structure should come in at approximately the same time. “One of the great things about this project, in a down economy, is that we’ve created 1,000 construction jobs and we’re looking at up to 1,200 jobs once everything is done,” Elmets said. Another benefit to the economy, he said, will be the increase in vendor services, covering everything from providing uniforms to supplying food and beverages. Currently, Thunder Valley spends $25 million per year in the local economy and projections for when the project is complete put the number at approximately $70 million. The performing arts center will seat as many as 3,000 people and will not only provide an entertainment venue, but can be rented out as convention space as well. The parking structure will be a “smart” garage. Computer sensors will display where there are open spots, taking away the annoyance of having to drive around looking for an elusive parking spot. “The key to a project like this is making the patron feel they are being taken care of,” Elmets said. While construction is in progress, a portion of the parking lot is taken up with equipment and fenced off for safety reasons. An overflow lot has been opened up and shuttle buses run to and from the casino, ferrying guests from their cars to the gaming floor. Another amenity offered in the new project is a childcare center, called Kids Quest. It will be housed in the hotel, with no access to the casino, and will serve as a place for parents to drop their kids off for fun and games while they head to the slots or the new poker room. Once the parents are done gambling, they can pick the kids up and head to one of the three new restaurants that will be in place by then.