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Station Casinos unveils Graton Resort & Casino design

An artist's rendering of the Graton Resort & Casino near Rohnert Park, expected to open by the end of 2013.

WWW.GRATONRESORTCASINO.COM
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013 at 12:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 2:16 p.m.

The future shape of gambling in Sonoma County gained greater detail Monday as Station Casinos released the first official drawings of the enormous Indian casino under construction outside Rohnert Park.

Facts

PROJECT TIMELINE

2003: Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria announce plans to build a casino near Sears Point. Tribe agrees, after community outcry, to look for another site.
2005: Tribe pays $100 million to buy 254 acres off Wilfred Avenue from now-bankrupt developer and financier Clem Carinalli and two other prominent North Bay businessmen, James Ratto and Dennis Hunter.
2010: The 254-acre parcel of land at the edge of Rohnert Park is taken into trust for the tribe by the federal Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, making the property a reservation that is almost entirely free from state and local regulations.
March 2012: Gov. Jerry Brown signs a gambling compact with the tribe.
June 2012: Ground is broken on the Wilfred Avenue property, where the casino is to rise on 66 acres just south of Home Depot.
July 2012: The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs allows the compact to take effect.
January 2013: Station Casinos holds a ceremony at the building site to mark end of structural work.

The drawings debuted Monday on the new website of the $800 million Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria casino resort, www.gratonresortcasino.com. They depict a single-story building with beige, brown and copper accents that vaguely evokes a high-rent corporate office park seen at a distance.

Graton Rancheria Chairman Greg Sarris said he partnered with Station Casinos -- which has a contract to manage the 3,000-slot machine casino for seven years -- because "they did not want to do the cookie-cutter approach to Indian casinos."

"I've worked hand in hand with Station and their architects to create something modern that would be timeless and reflect the local landscape and colors," he said Monday.

Arches are the casino's most prominent flourish, particularly a slide-shaped structure that swoops from the ground up over the valet parking entrance and breaks up the straight lines of the 320,000-square-foot building. A waterfall curtains another entrance.

The arches, he said, are intended to reflect Sonoma Mountain, a sacred Indian locale where Sarris, a writer, has set some of his stories, and which is also visible from the casino site.

Sarris said he has been "instrumental in every aspect of the casino," including its design. He said he rejected a Tuscany theme that some in Sonoma County had advocated for -- "even In-N-Out Burger has a Tuscany roof," he said.

As the steel girders have given shape to the building, there has been much speculation about its eventual appearance. And on Monday, Rohnert Park officials said they were pleased at the result.

"I am pleasantly surprised. It looks good. I like the fact that they incorporated lots of trees and shrubs into the project," Rohnert Park Councilman Amy Ahanotu said.

"From what I'm seeing, it has taken into account the Sonoma County environment," Ahanotu said. "The building is not as imposing as I thought it was going to look."

It will confound at least some expectations, Mayor Pam Stafford said.

"We've had so many people say, 'Oh you're going to get a tent,' things like that. But it's clean looking, it's not garish," she said.

Work on the project, one of the most expensive in county history, started in June. The casino, with at least four restaurants and a food court, is expected to open late this year. It has risen swiftly, turning a large plot of grassy land into one of the busiest construction sites in the North Bay.

"They are going at lightning speed," said Chris Knerr, business agent for Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 300. "They've had the luxury of good weather and they haven't missed a beat."

Meanwhile, Station Casinos is moving forward with plans to staff the resort. On Monday, it announced that a free, 12-week school to train prospective dealers in table games such as blackjack, baccarat and pai gow will be held at the casino.

Casino General Manager Joe Hasson said that exactly how the school will work and when it will be held is to be determined through questionnaires that people can fill out and submit via the website.

"We want to know people's interest because that will ultimately help us shape the training," he said.

Hasson declined to say when hiring of dealers and other staff is to start. The casino's website says it will employ more than 1,500 people.

"We're doing the homework right now to make sure we understand the competitive landscape of not only dealers in the area but all the jobs in the hospitality fields," he said. "We have to be competitive to attract and retain a quality workforce."

All casino staff will be free to join labor unions and will also have medical and retirement benefits and 401(k) plans, Sarris said.

"It will help undo the part-time exploitative work that happens in all the restaurants around here," he said. "That's going to be huge, that's really going to raise the bar."

The drawings released Monday do not show a hotel, which the tribe and Station Casinos officials have said will be built later.

In early conceptional renderings, in which the casino was similarly low-slung, the hotel appears to its south a sloping glass structure that reaches about eight stories above the casino roof.

However, those drawings were issued before the federal government approved a smaller project, which downsized the hotel to two stories and 200 rooms.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jeremyhay.

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