The Board of Trustees for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation recently gave its approval to a team to begin to seek financing for a loan up to $85 million for the expansion of the Wildhorse Resort & Casino.
Expected to be completed by the summer of 2020, the major expansion of the resort and casino located in Pendleton, Oregon includes the addition of a second 11-story hotel tower, five new restaurants, a 32-lane bowling alley, four more screens in the existing Cineplex, and a parking garage, according to the East Oregonian.
On April 4, 2016, financing was approved by the Board of Trustees to hire an architectural and engineering firm so that the first steps could be taken to draft preliminary proposals.
Wildhorse CEO, Gary George, reportedly said that financial institutions have indicated their willingness to loan as much as $137 million. However, based on the resort’s current earnings, that number was reduced by $52 million to ensure the current distribution to tribal members would not be impacted. George reportedly said that he believes the Phase II expansion to be a “very solid project,” one that will “generate additional discretionary revenue” for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and its programs. George went on to say that based on the feasibility study, dividends will increase for current and future tribal members or, as he calls them, shareholders.
According to the news agency, at least 100 new jobs are expected to be created by the expansion, which would increase the total number of employees to 860 during the summer’s peak months. George said, even during the slower months in the winter, there would still be between 760 and 800 employees.
Some of the main expansion items include demolishing the old courtyard rooms and increasing the number of rooms to 416; a new multi-event center and a pow wow/outdoor arena; outdoor swimming pool; a 32-lane bowling alley, which will likely include two sets of 16 lanes for public play and league play; five new restaurants including three franchise establishments to be located in a small food court, a fourth to serve bowling alley and movie theater patrons, and the fifth will be a sit-down eatery which will reportedly overlook the swimming pool and serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and the addition of four more screens to the movie theater.
The expansion will also see 300 more slot machines added to the casino floor, bringing the total to 1,500. And the total gaming table count will be at 20 after the addition of six more tables to the pit.
George reportedly said that, to date, all four previous expansions have been “very successful” and he expects Wildhorse to enjoy the same success.
As far as parking, George said that rather than build out, they want to start building up. A new parking garage for staff and customers is planned for what is now the pow wow grounds, located south of the Cineplex. George reportedly said that the design of the parking garage will match the casino building and blend in with rest of the property.
According to the news agency, the Board of Trustees resolution gave the green light to Wildhorse to negotiate for design development with Thalden Boyd Emery Architects, as well as construction drawings, the development of final costs, and to begin putting together request for proposals for the general contractor and construction project.
Approved in May 2014, the current Wells Fargo loan funded the expansion’s first phase along with refinancing the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute and the Nixyaawii Governance Center. On that debt, Wildhorse is paying $6.7 million a year. In May 2019 the loan comes due, with a balloon payment of $7.7 million, the East Oregonian reports.
George said, “By the time we negotiate the new loan, Wildhorse’s old loan will be close to being paid off.” He added, “This new loan should not impact the current distribution to the CTUIR and should be repaid within seven years when the expansion project is completed ready for full operation.”
George concluded that if everything goes according to plan, the summer of 2018 could see construction begin, with completion in 2020.