TULALIP – The flashing lights and tinkling sounds of 1,500 slot machines don’t make up for a casino debut without fireworks and celebration, but it has to do it first.
With a tribal blessing and a ceremonial ribbon cut, the Tulalip Tribes opened the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino on Wednesday morning. The $ 125 million project is the latest in economic development for the tribes west of I-5.
“We are so excited that we can finally open this building to provide a beautiful place for our community and our people,” said Teri Gobin, leader of the tribes.
A traditional opening event would mean early access and a big party for tribal members, festivals not suitable for a pandemic. Instead, members were encouraged to watch the limited opening from their homes.
Still, hundreds gathered to open the casino with a traditional welcome song, accompanied by the steady beat of the ceremonial drums.
“There are some (people) you can’t hold back,” said Gobin.
A red carpet and temperature controls awaited the curious at the main entrance. At 10 o’clock in the morning the first guests poured into the new “Q”, as the locals call it.
People are playing slot machines at the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino in Tulalip on Wednesday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Slot machines cover the 126,700 square meter facility, 500 more than in the old casino. The amenities are also seen like none across the street.
This includes a dining room with 212 seats and seven restaurants that is open around the clock. a restaurant with 137 seats for à la carte dishes; three full-service bars; a takeaway; and an entertainment venue that fits 189.
Ken Kettler, President and COO of the Tulalip Gaming Organization, said it was balanced to design a space that retains the look and feel of the old excavations while making the improvements that people wanted to see.
“We are satisfied with the extra that we were able to put on the already great success,” he said.
On Wednesday at 2 o’clock in the morning, operations on the old “Q” ended. The fate of the casino is still uncertain, but Gobin said inquiries and suggestions for the location have been made.
Tulalip Tribes Chair Teri Gobin speaks to the crowd during the opening of Quil Ceda Creek Casino in Tulalip on Wednesday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
In 1983, the Tulalip Tribes opened a bingo hall on the site of the original Quil Ceda Creek Casino. Over four decades, the tribes expanded with the first casino in 1993, followed by the development of the Tulalip Casino in 2003.
“What is so important is that we are an economic force for the entire county,” said Gobin. “The feeder companies – the companies that will grow because of the different types of economic activity in this area – this is what really matters because it keeps our entire community economically healthy.”
Construction on the new casino began in late 2017, but problems between the tribes and the original general contractor have postponed the expected completion date for 2019. Andersen Construction of Seattle, with designs by TBE Architects of St. Louis, resumed construction in 2019, according to Tulalip News.
With its location on sovereign tribal land, construction could be completed and the casino can reopen despite nationwide COVID-19 lockdowns initiated by Governor Jay Inslee.
In the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
“People have adapted to stay safe,” said Kettler. “We have a real regiment program for our guests and our team members together with the Tulalip community.”
The casino will be 50% busy during the pandemic and will continue to monitor science and statistics. “It worked so far,” said Kettler.
For Gobin, it’s about customization. Funding the casino is essential for the tribes to provide programs and services to members on which they depend.
“What we’ve been doing for a long time is following the vision of our previous leaders and our ancestors, and that was so important to us,” said Gobin. “To take care of our people, to find a way to become economically strong, and I think we did.”
Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; [email protected]; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.