Swinerton In the News

Seattle: September 06, 2018

ilani to build gas station, convenience store

Project adjacent to casino to add to products, services

A new gas station and convenience store are on the horizon near ilani.

About 80 leaders from the casino resort, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and more gathered at the site adjacent to ilani, just off Interstate 5 at Exit 16, to break ground on the project.

“This is really part of our master plan to grow the reservation and continue to evolve our products and services here,” said Kara Fox-LaRose, ilani president and general manager.

She attended the reception and groundbreaking ceremony on a warm and sunny Thursday morning at the site, a tribe-owned plot of land just south of ilani’s main building.

The new gas station and convenience store are the latest developments in a master plan, the broad strokes of which are still under wraps, Fox-LaRose added.

“We’ve made no secret that our goal is to become the West Coast premiere entertainment, gaming, dining and meeting destination, and this is just another step to bring us closer to that goal,” Fox-LaRose said.

A store and gas station may seem like a tiny step, she said, but added, “We believe this amenity will provide a valuable service to our valued guests at ilani, as well as contribute to the economic growth of our local community by bringing more business to the surrounding area.”

Slated for completion in late spring 2019, the new facility will feature at least 18 gas pumps and possibly up to 24, said Taylor Morelli, ilani’s director of procurement and manager of the project.

It will also include a 5,500-square-foot convenience store with a double-level atrium and 22 parking spaces.

“It’s taken many, many months of planning, information, research, market studies, making sure that we have the right size C-store, the right number of gas pumps that we need, the right branding that will go with the gas station,” Morelli said.

The building will be designed in the same style as the casino resort directly behind it, with brick, glass and concrete in earthy tones. As an accessory to the main ilani facility, it will be built by the same company, Swinerton. This will create visual cohesion between the two buildings, Morelli added.

“It’s going to have a really expansive, open feel when you walk in, very high ceilings, a lot of artwork,” Morelli said. “It’s going to be very upscale.”

Future customers will be able to purchase gas, beverages and tobacco from the store, as well as some basic grocery items and hot foods, such as fried chicken and sandwiches.

Cowlitz Tribal Chairman William B. Iyall said the store will prove to be a much-needed resource in the region.

While the new station is located a stone’s throw away from an existing Shell station directly across I-5, he said he doubts that the two stores will compete for customers.

“It’s not so much about competition. A lot of times you have gas stations on every corner,” Iyall said. “There’s very little services in the community here so if you want groceries or anything like that there’s just not that much available.”

The groundbreaking ceremony itself featured a speech from Tanna Engdahl, Cowlitz Tribe spiritual leader, who reflected on the tribe’s 160-year history as a people without land.

“In the 1940s, we were a dispersed people, and when we came together for our meetings, we had very few cars between us so they were jammed full. We got as many people in a car as possible and got to the old Grange,” Engdahl told the gathered crowd.

“We had an enterprise there, like we have an enterprise here, but our enterprise then was to make sure that we had wood for the old fireplace,” she continued. “The other enterprise was that we brought food, because we had to share our food with each other.”

Engdahl recalled passing a hat around to collect money to go toward education. Passing an old tattered hat resulted in a sophisticated and educated council, she said, and that council and its vision has allowed the Cowlitz Tribe to take on its current projects.

“As we break open our beloved Earth this morning to prepare for this magnificent structure, we break it open with the sense that we know that our ancestors have blessed it and are here enjoying the moment, because this is probably something they envisioned in the future and gave us that strength to persevere over everything,” she said.

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