An expansion at the Elwha River Casino will add about 12,000 square feet when construction is complete next year. A groundbreaking ceremony was conducted March 2. (Elwha River Casino)

An expansion at the Elwha River Casino will add about 12,000 square feet when construction is complete next year. A groundbreaking ceremony was conducted March 2. (Elwha River Casino)

Elwha River Casino is expanding

More gaming machines, bigger restaurant planned

PORT ANGELES — The Elwha River Casino is adding more than 12,000 square feet of space, converting a small grill into a larger restaurant serving alcohol, and increasing gaming terminals to 300.

The expansion more than doubles the area of the casino, which opened in March 2009 with 10,000 square feet.

“We’re ready to make it bigger and better,” said Rena Barkley, director of marketing for the casino at 631 Stratton Road, about seven minutes travel time west of Port Angeles.

Management aims to keep the intimate atmosphere of the casino while offering patrons more, said Mike Watson, the Class 11 gaming facility’s general manager.

“We’re the little casino that could,” he said, also comparing the facility’s atmosphere to that of the ’80s and ’90s television show Cheers about a bar “where everybody knows your name.”

‘We’ve been fortunate with the guest base we’ve had the last 13 years,” he said. “We don’t want to lose our identity as we expand.”

Construction for the project, which began with a groundbreaking ceremony on March 2, is expected to be completed early next year.

An estimated 15 to 20 new jobs will be needed for the expanded casino, which now has a staff of 42, Watson said.

Advertising for the new positions is expected to begin in October or November of this year. Additional people will be needed in every area of operation, Barkley said.

The casino, which was closed from March to October in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reopened with every other gaming machine turned off. It is now operating at 100 percent capacity — 263 people — with all 147 machines available.

When the expansion is completed, capacity will have increased to 875 people while machines will number 300.

The River’s Edge Bar & Lounge — now a “grab-and-go” that seats about 10 people, Watson said — will expand capacity to between 80 and 100 diners with both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as offer a new menu and an added live entertainment area for bands and karaoke, Watson said.

The restaurant will provide alcohol service, a first for the casino.

More parking space will be added, as well as space for RVs.

Watson declined to provide the cost of the expansion but said the expenses had soared some 35 percent to 40 percent due to the pandemic and the availability of materials.

“That’s the challenge we’re facing right now, the lead time for all the mechanical items and kitchen equipment,” Watson said.

Masking became optional on Saturday. Sanitation measures already were in place before the pandemic “so that wasn’t a big change for us,” Watson said.

“I give kudos to tribal leadership,” Watson said. “They’ve been doing everything they can to safeguard our community.”

Woodstone, Inc., of Minnesota, a Native American-owned construction company, will provide the construction management oversight, Barkley said. Bergman Walls and Associates and the owner worked together to provide the architectural design and concepts to bring the project to fruition, she said.

For more information, see Elwha River Casino at www.elwharivercasino.com.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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