Wildhorse expansion

The Wildhorse Hotel & Casino expansion will include a new hotel tower, bowling alley and food court.

Wildhorse Resort & Casino has trimmed back its upcoming major expansion to stay within an $85 million budget.

The resort detailed the final plans for the expansion in an announcement on Wednesday.

“Sticking to the original spending plan became a challenge when the price of steel increased drastically,” according to the announcement. “The planning team carefully prioritized elements of the overall vision and created a realistic and innovative strategy that works within the $85 million budget.”

That vision in July included a second 11-story hotel, a 32-lane bowling alley, four more screens in the cineplex and five new restaurants. The announcement Wednesday described the bowling alley as the “crowning piece” and “the impetus for the entire expansion,” but reduced the number of lanes to 24, plus a bar and pool tables. The announcement made no mention of the cineplex.

“While the intent to expand has been known for some time, changes in the economy and trade have had an impact on planning,” according to the resort’s announcement. “Until now, blueprints were in flux as executives and architects worked on a balance between budget and construction costs.”

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation own the resort near Pendleton. The Board of Trustees governs the tribes, while the General Council represents the tribal members, and both entities have input regarding the operation and development of the resort.

“After yearlong meetings with WRC staff and the Board of Trustees, we finally settled on a project that we can afford,” Wildhorse CEO Gary George said.

Wildhorse plans to open the second hotel tower by the end of 2020 with a mix of 214 executive suites and standard rooms, along with new convention space for 1,500 seats in the main room. The expansion includes a 24-hour restaurant and a food court, and a larger family entertainment center will house child care facilities and an arcade with about 40 games.

The casino’s new poker room will seat up to 90 players and operate daily. The plans call for space for future businesses and parking surrounding the entire site.

New construction means the leveling of the courtyard hotel — the resort’s original hotel built in 1996. Wildhorse reported March 31, 2019, is the last day for guests to check out. The demolition will begin after crews empty the rooms of furniture and decor, and the Hot Rock Café will close at the same time.

That work leaves the resort short 100 rooms until the new tower opens. Staff will refer guests to hotels in Pendleton.

Wildhorse touted the long-term benefits of an increase in visitors and more local jobs. And the expanded facilities and bowling alley will result in tournaments, larger conventions and bigger entertainment.

This will be the fifth expansion for the resort since it opened in 1994 with only a small, temporary structure and 100 slot machines. George said the project goes to the Board of Trustees and the General Council in the next month or two for final approval.

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