Jackpot! Wildhorse Hotel, More Slots Open Sept. 2

September 2011, CUJ

Wildhorse Casino


PENDLETON – Every room that’s ready for occupancy was to be filled on the weekend of Sept. 3 and 4, a day after the general contractor was to turn over at least 136 – and perhaps as many as 170 – rooms in the 202-room 10-story Wildhorse Hotel.

Wildhorse Chief Executive Officer Gary George said Aug. 30 that he was confident at least 170 rooms would be turned over to Wildhorse by J.E. Dunn Construction to Wildhorse by midnight on Sept. 2. However, the Sept. 2 opening will be dependent on receiving a temporary occupancy permit from the Tribes’ Planning and Building Department.

By contract, George said, it is expected that J.E. Dunn will release all 202 rooms to Wildhorse by Sept. 9, which means the hotel will be finished except for some minor cosmetic and/or aesthetic touch ups. In any event, all 10 floors of rooms should be ready for occupancy just in time for the Pendleton Round-Up.

In addition to the hotel, a 24,000 square foot expansion of the casino gaming floor will open Sept. 2 with 400 new slot machines, which will feature the industry’s newest games. A five screen cinema is expected to open in October.

As planned, VIPs from Club Wild will get the first chance to play the new slot machines in the expanded casino starting at noon Sept. 2. The 400 new slot machines are some of the newest product out on the market today, according to Al Tovey, Wildhorse Casino Manager.

“I guarantee that some of the games none of our customers have seen yet,” Tovey said.

The expanded floor will sport 332 penny machines, 18 two-cent, 8 five-cent, 7 ten- cent, 9 quarter, 20 dollar and 4 five- dollar machines. Some of the new titles are China Shores, Beat the Field, Rock Around the Clock, Phat Cats, First Class Adventure Jackpot, Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey and Paradise Fishing.

“The Paradise Fishing game has a bonus round that simulates a fishing derby. It actually feels like you are catching something,” Tovey said. “Our customers are going to love the look of the new casino floor and the new slot machines.”

Following the VIP opening, a general public opening starts at 3 p.m. A major grand opening is planned in early October with a 3D projection planned with the hotel tower serving as the screen.

Chip Laizure, vice president of J.E.Dunn, the general contractor, in an Aug. 29 email, said J.E. Dunn expected to meet its obligation to turn over 136 rooms by Friday and may be able to have more ready by then as well.

George said all the rooms that will be ready are booked for the two days after that Sept. 2 deadline. Granted, two thirds of those rooms are to accommodate the VIPs, but more than 50 other rooms were reserved by guests before the furniture had been unpacked.

George believes the hotel will be pushing capacity when Round-Up arrives in mid-September.

“I feel good about it, it’s exciting,” George said, “especially when there was speculation that some of the rooms would not be completed on schedule because of the flood [that warped 500 doors]. We weren’t sure the (new) doors were going to get here, but everything seems to be working out and it’s exciting around here,” he said.

It was hoped that all 10 floors of the hotel would be completed by Sept. 2(the day after the CUJ hit the streets) but a combination of factors, from poor weather to the flooding, slowed down construction.

Laizure said subcontractor crews given a “truly herculean effort,” working two shifts seven days a week to get the job done.

“There have been challenges, with 17 days of adverse weather delays, but our team, including all our subcontracting partners, have been working a lot of hours to maintain the Sept. 2 date and we’re looking forward to turning over our obligation of the casino expansion and the 136 rooms by this Friday night (Sept. 2). With luck, we’ll turn over additional units, comprising a total of 202 rooms being built for the hotel tower.”

George said the hotel and casino expansion are beautiful.

“I think the hotel and casino finish work is absolutely fantastic,” he said. “I think everyone is going to be amazed by the product we’ll be offering. I see it every day and I’m continually amazed at the finish work, the vibrant colors and how it all comes together.”

Guests should be impressed by the rooms, including larger suites that feature 42-inch flat screen TVs, queen and king size luxury beds, pullout hideaway beds, coffee bars, etc. One of the unique features is the extra-large bathrooms.

The main entrance to the hotel is mostly glass entering the lobby. Visitors will immediately see high ceilings, tile floors, a fireplace and a coffee lounge, with a business center, fitness center, conference rooms and two retail spaces.

On the east side, a 1,125 square foot swimming pool features a number of large doors that can open up in warm weather and close when it is cold. An outside concrete patio with tables and chairs will give people a place to relax.

“From the beginning, the complete elegance and quality of the building has become very evident,” Bill Grubich from Hill International, who was hired as the owner representative, told the CUJ in a story published in August. “This facility will provide a destination for patrons for many years to come. This is as good as it gets.”

The hotel is 100 percent smoke free and efforts have been made to keep air clean when hotel patrons step into the adjacent casino where smoking is allowed. There will be a 50-foot barrier into the casino to produce smoke free access to restaurants and the Cineplex.

Laizure said he’s looking forward to staying at Wildhorse Hotel during this year’s Round-Up.

“We’re proud to be working on such a unique project and to be part of the Pendleton area community in general,” Laizure said.

Laizure said, too, that “working on a project like Wildhorse presented unique challenges, from extreme weather conditions to finding sufficient materials and labor, to support a concrete tower project of this magnitude, especially given the fast track nature of this $45 million project. Typically, a project of this size would take 16 months, but given that Round-Up is such a key event for the region and for our client, we wanted to support Wildhorse’ s desire to open in time for this year’s Round-Up and finish within 12 months.”

Laizure said J.E. Dunn Construction and its team of subcontractors appreciated the opportunity to be part of this “tremendous project” for the Confederated Tribes and the region.

“We’ve enjoyed our relationship with the CTUIR and Wildhorse (including Thalden Boyd Emery Architects) and being part of the local Pendleton community,” Laizure said. “We’re a member of the Pendleton Chamber and for years now we’ve supported the area’s charitable events, from key events for CTUIR to the community’s various foundation activities such as the Cowboy Memorial Golf Classic.”

J.E. Dunn Construction has been working in this region for almost 15 years, dating back to the Two Rivers Correctional facility in Umatilla, and almost five years for the Confederated Tribes, including the Nixyaawii Governance Center, “which we delivered ahead of schedule and under budget.”

This story and photos 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.

Wildhorse Casino