Wildhorse Resort & Casino expansion hits another setback, CEO proposes the project to be split into two smaller ones so that costs are reduced
The Wildhorse Resort & Casino in Pendelton, Oregon is pushing back the start of an expansion project due to unexpectedly high labor costs and shortage of construction workers in the region, local news outlets report.
The casino resort is owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The tribal union has previously announced an $85-million expansion project that would include the addition of a hotel tower, an event center, and a family-friendly entertainment venue, among other amenities.
The major scheme was expected to be finalized this spring, but has hit multiple setbacks since first announced. The first unexpected issue stemmed from steel tariff issues. Casino resort owners are now faced with shortage of construction workforce as well as unexpectedly high labor costs.
Commenting on the latest delay of construction, the property’s CEO, Gary George, told local media that there has been extremely hard demand for contractors in the northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington regions. The demand has mostly been prompted by renovation projects at local schools. In addition, Google and Amazon are planning to open data centers in the region later this year, which has further boosted demand for workforce.
With all the big new projects, “contractors can raise their rates,” Mr. George said. The casino’s management has received budget proposals for their expansion project from several construction companies, but all exceeded the original $85 million budget. A $104 million budget by Lydig Construction was the one to get the nod from the casino resort’s officials.
Splitting the Expansion into Phases
Mr. George told local media that he has advised the board to split the expansion into two smaller projects and carry them out separately. The first stage of expansion would see the construction of a one-story family entertainment center. This would be the smaller portion of the whole planned expansion and would cost around $30 million.
The second phase of the plan would involve the development of a ten-story hotel and an event center. More finances and workers would be needed for that portion of the project, due to its significantly larger scope.
Mr. George said that if the expansion is split into two smaller projects, the family entertainment center could be completed by May or June.
According to estimates, the whole expansion would need between 250 and 350 workers. If the project is divided into two smaller ones and the entertainment facility is build first, then they would need fewer workers, Mr. George pointed out. That move would also provide them with more time to make necessary reductions to the hotel and event center phase of the scheme.
Mr. George’s proposal is currently being discussed and the Wildhorse Resort & Casino board of trustees is yet to vote on it.
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