Worley, Idaho – The Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort just got a lot larger. The extensive landscaping isn’t entirely finished, and the trees and bushes are yet to leaf out, but otherwise, the expansion is complete and open for customers in two new hotel wings with 98 additional rooms, a new 15,000-square foot spa, new steak house and new bar.
And, as CEO Dave LaSarte-Meeks noted, “We came in ahead of schedule and under budget,” which was projected at $75 million.
The grand opening was held May 2 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The tribal council was fully represented and the crowd of 200 included representatives from numerous other tribes throughout the region, state legislators, construction representatives, and community leaders from nearby towns.
Tribal elder Cliff SiJohn offered an opening prayer and noted, “Our chiefs have brought us another victory today. The Coeur d’Alene’s have scored again.”
LaSarte-Meeks, also a Coeur d’Alene tribal member, thanked the tribal council, the construction team, and the employees of the resort/casino for keeping the facility open and operating during the two years of construction.
He emphasized there were several things they wanted to do, such as create jobs for tribal members and the community and become a destination resort true to Coeur d’Alene culture. “Can we do like no one has done it before and can we do it so that it’s uniquely Coeur d’Alene so Coeur d’Alene people can look at and be proud of and in a way that enhances the customer’s experience?”
LaSarte-Meeks also explained no “off-the-shelf art” adorned the rooms and walls. If they displayed a photo of a tribal dancer, it was a Coeur d’Alene dancer. The tribe arranged special photo shoots for top quality shots of tribal members. The beadwork or feathers on regalia were actually worn by contemporary tribal members keeping the culture alive.
A landscape photographer had been sent into the mountains in the middle of winter, spring, summer, fall “to shoot images of land that means something to the tribe,” LaSarte-Meeks said. “If you see a picture of a gorgeous landscape, it’s an original.”
Chief Allan, Tribal Council Chairman, pointed out that with this addition, which created 150 new jobs, the tribe employs more than 2,000 people. “We are the largest employer in north Idaho now,” he said, bringing a round of applause. “We contribute $310 million dollars to the state economy. That’s a lot of money. Our workers pay $12.4 million in state income tax.”
“We talk a lot about sovereignty. Sovereignty to me means taking risks. You choose your own path. We’ve always wanted something better for our people. We never wanted a handout. We want what everyone wants. We want that American dream.”
Allen concluded his remarks saying, “As you walk through these buildings you will see many amazing things. You will see native and non-native people working hand in hand. You will see hospitality. You will see a glimpse of our heritage. You will see part of our culture. You will see a story that’s already written with no ending. You will see our ancestors smiling down on us because their hard work was not lost.”
Vice chairman Ernie Stensgar related the history of the resort from its beginning as a bingo hall to the decision to transition into a destination resort, “a benefit rather than a detriment.” An adopted mission statement read, in part, “We the Coeur d’Alene Casino, should become a world-wide destination with a knock-your-socks-off gaming experience.”
The Circling Raven Golf Course, which adjoins the new expansion, is consistently named in the Top 10 among the nation’s golf courses by various golf publications.
The new “front yard”–the entire property has been landscaped with hundreds of trees–will soon be finished and is adjacent to the new additions. It will feature two amphitheaters that will house concerts and other events.
An elder, Pearl Perry, was selected to cut the ribbon, officially marking the grand opening after which a lunch was served in the new Ts’elusm Steakhouse inside the casino. Guests were invited to visit the Ssakwa’q’n Spa or peruse the various photos and displays including the Coeur d’Alene watershed floor map embedded in the Welcome Lobby. This illustrates the rivers flowing in and out of Lake Coeur d’Alene. “We wanted to recognize it in a special way,” LaSarte-Meeks explained, “because the lake is the heart of the tribe.”
“This facility,” Stensgar explained, “is creating jobs so we can address programs for our young ones and for our elders. So we can make a better way of life for our people. So they can go to school. So they can become state senators, can become governors, teachers, physicians. That’s what this facility is all about.”