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Tulalip Casino

June 12, 2003

Tribal firms hit the jackpot

  • Contracts totaling nearly $18 million went to 38 American Indian firms

    Photo courtesy of Soundview Aerial Photography
    The Tulalip Casino was constructed on an 83-acre site it shares with Quil Ceda Village. The large site and high water table required carefully planned site work.

    From the day of its groundbreaking, the new Tulalip Casino has generated interest from far and wide.

    Located on the Tulalip Indian Reservation just west of Marysville, the casino is being billed as the premier gaming destination in the Pacific Northwest. With 2,000 slot machines, four restaurants, a live entertainment venue, and glamour inside and out, the new casino lives up to its billing.

    Before the first slot machine was played and the first poker hand was dealt, there was a tremendous effort on the part of a dedicated team of people to complete the project.

    Local participation

    One of the primary objectives of the new casino is to provide employment for Native Americans and the local community during both construction and the ongoing operation of the facility. This focus resulted in a construction craft labor force made up of 47 percent Native Americans, including 24 percent Tulalip tribal members.

     gaming floor
    Photo courtesy of Tulalip Tribes
    The majority of the gaming floor is built over a 2-foot raised floor plenum. It includes a ventilation system designed to reduce the effects of smoke by forcing air up through the floor and out of the building.

    Additionally, an innovative approach to contracting the work required that subcontractors and vendors on the project set their own goals for contracting with Native American firms. This resulted in contracts going to 38 Native American firms for a total of nearly $18 million. Requiring contractors to meet commitments they set for themselves resulted in nearly every firm meeting — and in most cases exceeding — their committed participation levels.

    By taking a collaborative approach to the common goal of supporting the health and development of Native American firms, the Tulalip Tribes, the Tribal Employment Rights Office, local labor unions, and all contractors involved were able to set a precedent for successful projects in Indian country.

    Completion fast track

    A construction project of this size and magnitude often presents some challenges, but casino was completed with very few hiccups.

    The project is built on an 83-acre site in the Tulalip’s Quil Ceda Village development. The large site and relatively high water table required carefully planned site work and a coordinated effort to keep the 250-plus craft workers on site, focused on their tasks every day.

    Several changes in the project also tested the agility of the project team. As construction was in progress, the exterior walls of the building changed from precast panels to a concrete masonry unit system. The change was integrated into the project with little impact to the schedule, and significantly improved the finished building.

    This type of change in the project, combined with phased turnovers and tight construction deadlines, presented a significant challenge to everyone involved.

    As final designs for the casino fell into place and financing issues were resolved, tribal policy-makers gave clear and simple direction to the project team: “Get the casino built and open.”

    With this leadership support and the dedication of the entire team, the project was completed under budget, and the doors opened to the public 10 days ahead of schedule.

    A unique project

     20-foot bronze spear fisherman
    Photo courtesy of Genie
    A worker helps prepare a 20-foot bronze spear fisherman outside the casino. The statue is one of many artistic touches that invoke the Tulalip Tribes’ cultural heritage.

    The casino is not the largest new construction project in Snohomish County, but its size, combined with the building’s unique personality, makes the facility different from most anything in the area in recent years. The blending of “Las Vegas style” with local flavor, and a commitment to honor tribal heritage made construction of this building a special experience.

    Many aspects of this casino are unique among building construction projects. One example is the ventilation system. The majority of the gaming floor is built over a 2-foot raised floor plenum.

    This accommodates a unique ventilation system designed to reduce the effects of cigarette smoke in the facility by forcing air up through the floor, up through the occupied casino, then out of the building, carrying the smoke with it.

    This system should make the casino experience more enjoyable for patrons, and at the same time provide a much better working environment for the many staff and employees.

    The central part of the gaming floor includes a 100-foot-wide overhead dome with a hand-painted mural depicting the journey of the salmon upstream to the night sky. With the many artistic touches and rich finishes included throughout the facility, the casino should have no trouble drawing people in for the “wow” factor alone.

    Looking to the future

    The casino’s seven rooftop lantern flashing lights can be seen for many miles throughout Snohomish County. They draw attention to the largest and most visible component to date in the Tulalip’s growing Quil Ceda Village development. At a time when economic activity is often difficult to find around Puget Sound, the tribes have an optimistic vision for continued expansion in their developing village.

    The Tulalip Casino will foster much needed job creation and economic development in this part of the state. In fulfilling the vision of the many who have worked so hard to make this project a reality, the casino will be both a new physical as well as economic landmark for Snohomish County.

    Mark Baughman is a project manager for M. A. Mortenson Co. He acted as project manager for the Mortenson/Gobin joint venture formed between Mortenson and Tulalip tribal member Glen Gobin of Gobin Hauling and Excavating.

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