Reactions Mixed to Thunder Valley Expansion

Share |
(Lincoln, CA)
Thursday, July 17, 2008

A high-rise hotel is about to emerge from a mostly empty industrial park in southern Placer County.  The United Auburn Indian Community broke ground Wednesday on an expansion to its Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln.  The project will bring new jobs, entertainment and tax revenues to the county, but reaction from local residents is mixed.
The Thunder Valley Casino sits in Placer County’s largest industrial park – though the area’s still mostly unfilled.  Residential developments and a landfill are just a few minutes away on either side.  The casino opened in 2003, and Thunder Valley CEO Scott Garawitz says it’s come a long way.
Garawitz: “A few short years ago, we were standing in a cow field, and in fact literally had to move the cows – moooooo-ve the cows – out to the back.  Now the Tribe has one of the most successful casinos in the United States, but it’s nothing compared to where they wanna take it.” 
As in, 23 stories up in the air.  The 650-room hotel will be the most visible part of the expansion.  There’ll also be a performing arts center intended to attract high-profile shows.  Placer County Supervisor Robert Wygandt says the community isn’t objecting as much as when the original casino was built five years ago.
Wygandt: “It’s been very quiet as compared to the first time, which was very loud, very controversial, huge number of meetings and discussions and tremendous number of people at our board hearing.  This time, I heard virtually nothing.” 
For example, local resident Dixie Luther wasn’t too pleased with the casino at first, but she’s gotten used to it.
Luther: “I just didn’t like the idea of a gambling casino being this close to the residential.  But it’s working out okay, I guess.” 
The tribe thinks it will work out for the county – bringing in almost $10 million in additional tax revenue and 1,200 new jobs. But not everyone is happy.  Lincoln resident David Michael says the hotel won’t match the surroundings.
Michael: “It doesn’t fit in at all.  Everywhere in Lincoln, you’re gonna see this huge hotel/casino.  A lot of people here don’t really go to the casino.  I think it’s more people out of town.”
Meanwhile, Michael says, he’ll have a great view of a 23-story hotel outside his window when the construction’s done in about two years.