Scale of Snoqualmie Tribe's hotel expansion plan is up to the members
By SETH TRUSCOTT
Snoqualmie Valley Record Editor
December 17, 2012 · Updated 1:48 PM
Whether it's 20 stories or a boutique lodge, members of the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe will determine the size and scope of a proposed hotel expansion at the Snoqualmie Casino.
After airing plans for the hotel at a Snoqualmie Valley Governments Association dinner on Nov. 29, Tribal Administrator Matt Mattson confirmed the tribe's hotel intentions. However, he says the size of the venue is still very much fluid.
According to Mattson, the tribe has a wide range of options, from hotels large and small to a phased project, and is taking a hard look at all of them. A feasibility study on the number of rooms that the casino site could support is in the works.
"Our plan is not in any way set," Mattson told the Record. "We really are at the most preliminary stages of looking at this. We have a concept," but no cost projections or blueprints.
"What we're doing in the next few months is gathering information, trying to get greater detail and cost estimates, revenue estimates, to present to the membership in late January or early February. If the membership decides to proceed, we will proceed."
"We've talked about something like 300 rooms," Mattson said. "We are looking at things even larger than that. It's based on what the market will bear. We could do something that ends up along the lines of 150 rooms."
With 400 feet of gradient on the hill, Mattson said there could be up to eight stories below the casino floor, depending on placement.
From a business perspective, more tourism and more visitors in the Valley is good for everyone, the administrator said,
The tribe has talked with the Mountains to Sound Greenway and other stakeholders about the plan. Mattson said the tribe will consider a comment line or mechanism to communicate with stakeholders.
Mattson said the tribe is committed to the Valley, and has done many good things here.
"We're going to do the best we can to balance business interests with concerns of our neighbors, " he added.
When the casino was built, "we talked to the community about what we were doing, and we did what we said we were going to do," he said.
"We decided to build what we think is the best gaming facility in the Pacific Northwest," while taking a measured approach to new debt, Mattson said. "We believe we've lived up to those things…. "The Valley will be proud of what we do."
Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, who attended the Nov. 29 government dinner, has expressed concern with how construction of a 20-story hotel tower—potentially the tallest building east of Bellevue in King County—would affect his city.
While the mayor has not yet had a chance to discuss the matter with council members, Larson told the Record that he doubts that such a tall facility would be supported by most city residents.
"I don't think it's in keeping with the values of the tribe," he added.
The Snoqualmie Tribe contracts with the city for fire and sewer services. Providing fire safety coverage of a tall building would prove challenging, but "sewer, that's the biggie," Larson said. "It definitely puts us front and center on this issue."
"If it's perceived by (city) residents that the Snoqualmie City Council did anything to facilitate construction of a 20-story hotel, we're going to be held responsible," the mayor added.
Aesthetically, such a tower puts the council into an untenable position, he says. And, apart from infrastructure like fire and sewer contracts, the city has limited capacity to influence a sovereign nation.
"All I have here is political influence," Larson said.
"I'd rather find a way to (talk) together and support what they want to do," he added. "Maybe, discuss with us what we could embrace…. Engage in a dialogue before making that final decision."
Following a Thursday, Dec. 13, meeting with the city, Mattson said both sides agreed to continue talks as the tribe's plan becomes more fleshed out. The critical decision comes at the next tribal membership in February.
Members will have a menu of options on what a casino expansion might look like.
"We've talked about and would contemplate something as large as the biggest hotel in Bellevue, to something smaller, depending on the outcome of our market studies," Mattson said.
In the next 40 days, the tribe should get cost estimates on a number of options. Members, he added, could choose to stick with the existing model and accumulate capital.
Expansion and hotel construction was initially discussed with the previous tribal council last summer.
"Our management team believes that… adding a hotel hospitality component is really the only way to substantially expand the business," Mattson told the Record. Thousands of customers have asked about a hotel. The tribe, Mattson added, has not been in a financial position to begin expansion until recently.
He remembers similar criticism when the casino was proposed.
"We told the community what we wanted to build," the administrator said. "Our intention is to do the same, share it with the community of Snoqualmie and the Snoqualmie Valley… If we have a plan and concept, and if people want to characterize it, it's a free country." Until then, he says, criticism of the hotel plans are premature and unfair.
Contact Snoqualmie Valley Record Editor Seth Truscott at email@example.com or 1-425-888-2311.