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Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s casino expansion honors land, tradition

Thu., April 28, 2011

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has spent about $75 million on a major upgrade of its resort and casino in Worley, Idaho.

Most of the investment went into a 15,000-square-foot spa and indoor pool, two new hotel wings with 98 rooms and a 120-seat steakhouse.

But tribal leaders say just as much effort and planning went into selecting thousands of camas bulbs, trees and natural Palouse grasses planted across the surrounding grounds and along walking paths, said CEO David LaSarte-Meeks.

The new buildings feature floor-to-ceiling windows to emphasize the strong link between the facilities and the surrounding land, LaSarte-Meeks said.

“We designed the (expansion) so you can’t go to another casino and say, ‘That’s just like the Coeur d’Alene Resort,’ ” he said.

Starting in 1993 as a bingo hall, the resort and casino have evolved into a regional destination. Enhancing its reputation was the 2003 opening of the celebrated Circling Raven Golf Club, which has won awards for its design.

Except for a long, wet spring that’s prevented the completion of the landscaping, the tribe expects the grand opening next week to showcase its commitment to honoring the land and celebrating traditions.

The design has hundreds of tribal artifacts, photos and works of art on walls and in showcases, highlighting the Coeur d’Alenes’ history and culture, spokesman Bob Bostwick said.

The two-year expansion project will add at least 250 jobs, Bostwick said.

The tribe, with operations in both Benewah and Kootenai counties, is the second-largest employer in North Idaho. With the new hires, the casino-resort will account for 1,200 jobs, with several hundred additional jobs coming from other tribal businesses in the area.

LaSarte-Meeks said the focus now is squarely on enhancing the marketing appeal of the facility.

“We’ve already established the quality and variety of the (facilities here) for people in Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane area. But now we hope to bring in more visitors from the coast and from across the Western United States,” he said.

That’s a major economic benefit, pumping outside dollars into the region instead of recycling money spent by local patrons.

Area business leaders have praised the tribe for creating a thriving operation; some even wonder how it’s been done, considering the rural location south of Coeur d’Alene.

LaSarte-Meeks said that’s the draw: “This is a place that connects you to the outside location. It’s nothing like you see in Las Vegas,” he said. “We believe the people who come here are attracted to being in the Inland Northwest. That’s because it’s so gorgeous a location.”

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