ROHNERT PARK, Calif. (KTVU) - The Native American-owned Graton Casino in Rohnert Part is making good on its promise to provide the North Bay with a total resort experience.
On Tuesday, a milestone celebration was held to honor construction workers for the new hotel expected to open this fall. Construction crews placed the final beam atop what will, in November, become a $175 million, six floor, 200 room hotel, spa and huge convention and auditorium center.
"The North Bay really needs that. We have no place for big conventions. So, here it is," says Greg Sarris, the Graton Indians Rancheria Tribal Chairman.
The hotel was always planned and permitted. "We certainly have plenty of guests. We draw from the greater Bay Area, as far away as South Bay, certainly the City [and] the East Bay when guests want to stay overnight. They want the convenience of that nice hotel product, great caliber product," says Joe Hasson, the Graton Resort & Casino Manager.
When it comes to gambling, in California, amenities are everything.
"Sonoma County has been in the tourism business forever. This is simply one more reason to come to Sonoma County or stay for another day or so," Hasson said. With this hotel, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria have now invested more than a billion dollars here in the last two and a half years.
"We've created already, 2,000 jobs and a thousand jobs just building this building right here; a thousand construction jobs. There will be many more to come when the hotel opens," says Tribal Chair Sarris.
When it was first planned and opened, locals complained it would be over congested, environmentally unfriendly and degrading to community morals.
Today, the concerns appear more muted. "It's a form of entertainment for everyone because it's pretty boring out here; there's not a lot to do. On the other hand, there are people who can't control their gambling habits and they lose a ton of money.
But, without that casino, there are other casinos that people can go to and lose their money," said Rohnert Park Resident Edward Price Woolley.
Like many others, William Raymond does not go. "No I don't. I don't smoke and that's the reason. I would if I smoked or if they didn't allow cigarettes there, but I just can't handle the cigarette smoke," says Mr. Raymond.
Then, there are benefits. "I am just happy they're here because they are providing us with some tax revenues," says William Raymond. "Money is coming in to Ronhert Park for sure. People are coming in from other places and bringing money into Graton," says Edward Price Woolley.