|By Rachel Pritchett, Kitsap Sun,
Bremerton, Wash.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 11, 2013--SUQUAMISH -- Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort is about to embark on an ambitious five-year expansion that will make it the biggest convention center in West Sound, as well as a major Northwest gaming and hotel destination.
"This is something we've wanted to do for some time, and now's the opportunity to do it," said Russ Steele, chief executive officer of Port Madison Enterprises (PME), the business arm of the Suquamish Tribe.
The plan includes large conference space that will eclipse, by far, anything in West Sound including the Kitsap Conference Center at Bremerton Harborside and the Silverdale Beach Hotel.
It also includes an expansive new hotel wing, an enormous parking garage and a remodeled casino. Construction starts in June and ends in 2017. Steele declined to offer a total dollar amount on the work.
In the project, casino space will remain roughly the same, but convention and meeting space will grow almost tenfold, to 27,835 square feet.
The plan reflects the tribe's focus on being a big convention venue. And gaming will be the draw.
"One complements the other," said Steele, who also declined to say whether convention revenues are anticipated to someday surpass gaming revenues.
Later this year, motorists on Highway 305 will see a parking garage with several stories going up next to the highway where the open parking lot is now. It will contain 700 spaces, bringing the total parking spaces at the facility to 2,010.
In 2014, a new five-story, 100-room hotel wing will be built off the south end of the exiting casino. Though Steele declined to share the occupancy rate of the existing 85-room hotel, he did say that it's high and that the hotel is sold out on weekends. The new hotel wing will be built in a way so that three more floors could be added later for yet another 100 rooms.
All those new rooms will be needed to accommodate the new convention and meeting space. Built between 2013 and 2017, it will wrap around the current casino's east and south sides.
The number of people that space can accommodate has not been seen in Kitsap. Three thousand people could fit into two giant rooms. Conventioneers desiring to be in one room could number as many as 1,666, if they were seated theater-style in chairs facing the same direction, or 1,248 at big round tables.
Also along the way, the existing casino will be remodeled, with the same number of gaming units. The area will feature a central round bar, and more room for entertainment. The current space allows for an audience of 200 people; that goes to 1,500 people.
The Longhouse buffet, among the busiest and biggest nonmilitary canteens in West Sound, will be remodeled.
The number of eating spots at the facility will increase from four to five, and in a nod to the anti-smokers, each will be accessible from the outside. Now, nonsmoking eaters have to go through the smoke-filled casino to get to the restaurants. Nonsmoking areas in the casino will be expanded, as well.
"There is a demand for that," Steele said.
The curved entrance to the facility will stay, but will have more doorways.
Everything stays open during construction. Rice Fergus Miller is the architect. A contractor soon will be selected.
The facility's expansion is expected to create about 170 new full- and part-time jobs, adding to the 790 current PME jobs now.
It wasn't that long ago that the patch of woods and weeds on the west end of the two-lane Agate Pass Bridge held little more than a humble smoke shop and weathered totem pole. A bingo hall opened its doors in 1992. A white, tent-style mini-casino went up in 1995. The popular tent underwent a couple of modest expansions before the casino seen today replaced it in 2003. The current hotel, beyond the casino and overlooking the waterfront, opened in 2006, completing the current picture.
Area elected officials received word of the expansion Thursday.
Steele said of the massive project, "Much like fishing, we want to cast our net farther."
(c)2013 the Kitsap Sun (Bremerton, Wash.)
Visit the Kitsap Sun (Bremerton, Wash.) at www.kitsapsun.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services NASDAQ:WSTC,