Hotel Walls Climb; 3D Theater Added

March 2011, CUJ

New Wildhorse Hotel

Paul French and Jacob Welch work high on the sixth floor of the new Wildhorse Hotel, which eventually will top out at 10 stories - 110 feet high with the Wildhorse logo on its top. The economic growth on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and particularly at Wildhorse Resort & Casino, were the subject of a story in The Oregonian, which was picked up by the Associated Press for distribution across the United States. CUJ photo/Phinney

Overview of Wildhorse Resort & Casino

This overhead view of Wildhorse shows the new 10-story hotel on the north side and the new cineplex on the south side of the facility.


PENDLETON – Wildhorse Hotel continues to climb toward 110 feet (120 with the lighted logo on top), the casino is being remodeled to accommodate 600 more slot machines, and the cinema is undergoing revisions that will increase the number of 3D screens. And a lot more is happening, too.

WRC staff is busy procuring 165 TVs (42-inch HD screens), 143 queen-sized and 27 king-sized beds (Serta Pillow top, chosen from a customer/employee promotional test in February), plus things like microwaves, refrigerators, bedding, towels and soap. The size of the rooms is increasing from 280 square feet to 425 square feet for regular rooms, with the lion’s share of that extra space going for larger bathrooms.

Up in the concrete rafters, Paul French and Jacob Welch worked setting beams in mid-February on one of the rare days with sunshine. The pair was among 32 tribal members (slightly higher than TERO’s requirement of 25 percent of hours worked) working six floors up at the hotel. Looking down, another eight workers were preparing for construction of the casino’s new Porte co-chere. It’s a bustling place.

Seven days behind schedule (13 days of bad weather) in mid-February, J.E. Dunn, the general contractor, put workers on a fast track, working until 11 p.m. four days a week until they catch up. “It’s a short schedule that takes a lot more coordination and planning, but nobody is doubting the Sept. 2 date,” said Tim Farley with Hill International, Inc., the Tribes’ owners’ representative who watches the work, documenting progress with photos and daily reports. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done in the next six months.”

The sheer size and height of the building is impressive, but perhaps what excites Gary E. George, Wildhorse Resort & Casino Chief Executive Officer, more are the TVs coming to each of the rooms at the new hotel. “State of the art high definition satellite TVs with connections to Wildhorse channels with integrated packaging for marketing and digital signage,” George said.

What does that mean? In addition to 50 premium high-definition channels, Internet radio and pay perview movies, the TVs will offer guests the opportunity to use their remote control to make reservations for dinner or golf, watch video tours or learn about Tamástslikt Cultural Center. Wildhorse will be able to show off its Plateau menu and offer incentives to Player’s Club members. The TVs will even personally welcome guests and wake you up in the morning.

Changes in plans at the Cineplex and its anticipated construction are also on George’s mind. “We’re revising the theater from three screens and one 3D screen to five four screens with two 3D screens,” George said. How come? Movie outlets like their product to stay at a theater from four to eight weeks. Unless it’s a blockbuster, most folks around Wildhorse have seen movies in the first two or three weeks it’s playing.

“We’re going to split a 275 seat theater into two theaters with 50 seats in one and 122 175 seats in the other (the remaining area will be used for corridors, walkways, handicap access, etc.) That way movies that aren’t drawing as a big a crowd can be moved to a smaller theater and we can still fulfill the movie company contracts,” George said.

As designed, the theater (28,000 square feet) still will be connected to Wildhorse on the south side. Guests will enter from the west where the current patio exists. Once inside, they can turn left into the casino near the Plateau Restaurant, Wildfire sports bar or the smoke-free slots, or turn right into the theater with the arcade and children’s entertainment center and four theater options. The arcade and children’s entertainment center will offer – for children who are potty trained up to age 12 – a mixture of activities, from Xbox and Wii to arts and crafts and a jungle gym.

As George envisions it, parents can bring their children to the arcade and children’s entertainment center (hourly rate) while they go to a movie, head to dinner or play games in the casino. Speaking before the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce in February, George noted that the new hotel and the additional casino space will result in another 82 full time jobs and 34 part time jobs– 53 at the hotel, 10 in security, nine in slots, and nine in custodial. That will bring the Wildhorse Resort & Casino employee total to 646 full time and 164 part time with an estimated annual payroll of $18 million.

This story and photo originally appeared in the CUJ. The Confederated Umatilla Journal is the monthly newspaper of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton, Oregon.