Lower Elwha Klallam tribal leaders, from left, Council member Steve Robideau, tribal chairwoman Frances Charles, and council members Anthony Charles and Melissa Gilman weild scissors to cut the ribbon, officially opening the expanded Elwha River Casino on Thursday. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

Lower Elwha Klallam tribal leaders, from left, Council member Steve Robideau, tribal chairwoman Frances Charles, and council members Anthony Charles and Melissa Gilman weild scissors to cut the ribbon, officially opening the expanded Elwha River Casino on Thursday. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

Elwha Casino expanded

Chairwoman: COVID raised costs, delayed reopening

PORT ANGELES — The Lower Elwha Tribe celebrated the grand reopening of the Elwha River Casino on Thursday, marking the completion of a nearly two-year-long expansion project.

The expansion added 12,000 square feet to the original 10,000 square-foot building at 631 Stratton Road in Port Angeles, totaling 22,000 square feet of space.

Frances Charles, chairwoman for the Lower Elwha Tribe, said the project cost close to $13 million.

Diners order food at the River’s Edge Bar & Lounge on Thursday at the expanded Elwha River Casino. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

Diners order food at the River’s Edge Bar & Lounge on Thursday at the expanded Elwha River Casino. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

“Originally the cost was around $5-to-$7 million and it’s up to about $13 million now,” Charles said.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy not only raised costs but also delayed the opening.

“We wanted to open this place much sooner, but as you all know, COVID hit many industries really hard and made it difficult to get the things we needed,” said Mike Watson, general manager for the casino.

The work was done by Woodstone Inc, a native-owned construction company based out of Minnesota.

Visitors to the newly-expanded Elwha River Casino walk through the gaming area after it was officially opened on Wednesday on the Lower Elwha Klallam Reservation west of Port Angeles. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

Visitors to the newly-expanded Elwha River Casino walk through the gaming area after it was officially opened on Wednesday on the Lower Elwha Klallam Reservation west of Port Angeles. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

In this new 22,000-square-foot space are over 300 new gaming machines, a brand-new restaurant and bar with indoor and outdoor seating that can hold up to 120 patrons, and a stage for entertainment.

The in-house bar will be the first time since its opening in 2009 that the casino has been able to serve alcohol to patrons, but the tribe is still waiting on state licensing.

“We are going through the state licensing process like other businesses applying for liquor licenses, it could be 30-90 days before we get the licensing,’ Charles said.

“We understand that the state is behind on this. They are just as backed up as any other listening agencies right now.”

The newly opened and renovated casino also means job creation for the community, but Charles said like many places the casino is struggling to hire, having to compete with everywhere else for workers.

“It’s been slow, not only with us but all over,” Charles said. ” We have been talking with a lot of the other facilities not only in the casino but in the enterprise and tribal government sides of it.

“There’s a number of jobs out there but it’s hard to get them filled. We see the billboards all over Port Angeles. Everyone is trying to recruit — hospital, law enforcement — we are all competitive on trying to get more staff on board.”

The Elwha River Casino is open from 10 a.m. to midnight every day.

______________________________

Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com

KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS
Lower Elwha Klallam tribal leaders, from left, Council member Steve Robideau, tribal chairwoman Frances Charles, and council members Anthony Charles and Melissa Gilman weild scissors to cut the ribbon, officially opening the expanded Elwha River Casino on Thursday.

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