Crowds fill ilani Casino for grand opening

RIDGEFIELD — Nathan Cano and several of his friends executed the perfect plan for experiencing opening day at the ilani Casino.

“We came yesterday and parked our RV, actually two RVs and a camper,’’ said Cano, owner of Cano Real Estate in Vancouver. “We partied all night and when the casino opened at 10 a.m., we went right over for the opening ceremony. It’s been crazy.’’

Cano said his group has grown to as many as 10, and thanks to their decision to park at the casino site overnight, they didn’t have to deal with the eight-mile backup the ilani opening created on Interstate 5.

“They shut down the exit to I-5 and put everybody back on the freeway,’’ said Cano, a Battle Ground resident. “Every spot in the parking lot was full. There was just nowhere to put people.’’

Patrons from all over the region turned out Monday for the grand opening of the ilani Casino in Ridgefield. The doors opened at 10 a.m. and observers indicated the casino was at its capacity a short-time later. Photo by Mike Schultz
Patrons from all over the region turned out Monday for the grand opening of the ilani Casino in Ridgefield. The doors opened at 10 a.m. and observers indicated the casino was at its capacity a short-time later. Photo by Mike Schultz

After a few hours inside the casino, Cano said he still had a couple thousand dollars worth of chips in his hand. He also had a great appreciation for the ilani Casino, which he said “absolutely’’ exceeded his expectations.

“The decor is unbelievable,’’ Cano said. “It looks like Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, in terms of style.’’

Camas resident Rich Geenty, a broker with LoanStar Home Lending, was one of those in Cano’s group.

“The hardest part is getting here,’’ Geenty said Monday afternoon. “We understand there’s an 8-mile backup on I-5. It might impact the Blazer (playoff) game tonight. At 2 p.m., the casino was at max capacity.’’

Like Cano, Geenty was extremely impressed with the ilani facility.

“It’s totally first class,’’ Geenty said. “It’s got high ceilings, probably 20-feet high. It feels like you’re walking into a Vegas casino. If you’re inside the building, you wouldn’t even feel like you’re in La Center, Washington.’’

Battle Ground resident Nathan Cano and Camas resident Rich Geenty were among those who attended Monday’s opening of the ilani Casino. Both said the facility exceeded their expectations and described it as “Vegas style.’’ Photo by Mike Schultz
Battle Ground resident Nathan Cano and Camas resident Rich Geenty were among those who attended Monday’s opening of the ilani Casino. Both said the facility exceeded their expectations and described it as “Vegas style.’’ Photo by Mike Schultz

Geenty said the only thing missing at the ilani is accommodations.

“For it to be world class, they need overnight accommodations,’’ he said. “I think that’s the only thing missing. People are going to want to come here and enjoy what it has to offer without having to drive home, so they’re going to need accommodations.’’

There are still other remaining phases of the development at the ilani Casino, which will include overnight accommodations at some point in the future. Despite the absence of that, Geenty said “it’s going to take a while for the newness to wear off. It’s Monday; it’s not even 2 o’clock yet and it’s way over the top!’’

Here’s a closer look at the features offered at the ilani Casino (information provided by ilani Casino’s public relations):

About ilani

Located on a 156-acre site near La Center, Washington, ilani, developed by the Cowlitz Tribe and Salishan-Mohegan, a partnership that includes Mohegan Sun, one of the world’s foremost gaming and entertainment developers and operators, is the West Coast’s premier gaming, dining, entertainment and meeting destination. With 368,000 total square feet, Ilani includes 100,000 square feet of gaming space with 2,500 slots and 75 gaming tables; 15 different restaurants, bars and retail outlets.  Ilani plans to open a 2,500-seat meeting and entertainment venue hosting nationally recognized performances in late 2017. For more information, visit www.ilaniresort.com and follow Ilani on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Salishan-Mohegan LLC

Salishan-Mohegan LLC, a partnership between the Cowlitz and Mohegan tribes and a Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority subsidiary, leads the development and management of the Cowlitz Project, which includes Ilani. This partnership demonstrates a shared commitment between Salishan-Mohegan and the Cowlitz Tribe to preserving tribal heritage and improving the community through large-scale investment in economic and job growth, environmental sustainability and transportation improvement for the next 20 years.

About the Cowlitz Tribe

The Cowlitz Tribe, with ancestral ties to Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis and parts of Pierce, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties, manages a growing portfolio of health, education, scientific research, housing, transportation, development, elder care and conservation issues, including a modern health clinic in Longview, health services in Tukwila and Vancouver, and viable housing units at its St. Mary’s complex near Toledo. The Cowlitz Tribe is a significant employer and contributor to Southwest Washington communities. The tribe won federal recognition in 2000 and secured reservation land in 2015, now the site of ilani.

About the Mohegan Tribe

The Mohegan Tribe is a sovereign, federally-recognized Indian Nation in Uncasville, Connecticut, with its own constitution and government. Since the opening of the world-class casino resort Mohegan Sun in 1996, the Mohegan Tribe has grown to be a successful, well established Connecticut-based employer, and has created a major economic engine for the state of Connecticut. It has now launched a business diversification arm to expand its business portfolio and evolve with a constantly changing economic landscape. For more information about the Mohegan Tribe, its government, heritage and contribution to American history, please visit our website at www.mohegan.nsn.us.

Prior to the opening of its doors to the public on Monday, members of the media got a sneak peek of the ilani Casino on Saturday night. Photo by Mike Schultz
Prior to the opening of its doors to the public on Monday, members of the media got a sneak peek of the ilani Casino on Saturday night. Photo by Mike Schultz

Entertainment

Muze

Watch the hottest acts on our intimate stage and catch up with friends over tasty bar bites by Rose and Thorn. Muze is the place where good company, great cocktails and top performers inspire nights you’ve only dreamed about.

Seeking to provide entertainment options for a variety of audiences, ilani has tapped DJ David E. for various performances throughout the opening week. He’ll start the party each evening and keep it going into the early morning hours.

DJ David E. will be accompanied by a special guest performer or tribute band each night of opening week, with The Sweet being the first band to break in the new stage on Monday night. The lineup for the remainder of the week includes Friends in Low Places, Stone in Love, Stones vs. Beatles, Cadillacs for Everyone, Mark Lindsay, Design Band, and Reba and George.

Performances at Muze are free to guests of ilani, and Muze will operate with extended hours during opening week: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

360 Bar

The heartbeat of ilani. Kick off the night or rehash the highlights over craft cocktails, surrounded by all the action! Feel the energy from the unique Cowlitz imagery, including the towering salmon tornado and fishing baskets that celebrate the region’s rich rivers.

With 368,000 total square feet, the Ilani Casino includes 100,000 square feet of gaming space with 2,500 slots and 75 gaming tables; 15 different restaurants, bars and retail outlets. Photo by Mike Schultz
With 368,000 total square feet, the Ilani Casino includes 100,000 square feet of gaming space with 2,500 slots and 75 gaming tables; 15 different restaurants, bars and retail outlets. Photo by Mike Schultz

Dining

Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse

Michael Jordan’s Steak House offers a dining experience driven by the unmatched global power of the Michael Jordan brand. The restaurant puts “steaksmanship” at the forefront — a belief in the steak, not the sizzle. Michael Jordan always sets the bar at being a cut above the rest in all his endeavors. That’s why every moment counts at Michael Jordan’s Steak House; perfecting each dish and presenting every guest with unparalleled service. Delivering to the standards of a legend demands talent, teamwork and most importantly, quality ingredients that live up to the standards of Mr. 23 himself.

Rose & Thorn

The restaurant embraces unique ‘experiential’ dining. Six ‘al pastor’ spindles are incorporated into one end of the main bar where hand-carved-to-order meats sizzle over open flame. The other end of the bar features a stylish dessert finishing station boasting imaginative, miniature delicacies. Guests will dine on steam-kettle-roasted seafood fresh from the waters of the Pacific Northwest, as well as other fine dishes incorporating locally grown, caught and crafted ingredients.

Longhouse: Raw Bar, Sushi & Noodle Shoppe

Longhouse showcases ocean-fresh handcrafted sushi from the Pacific Northwest and authentic handmade noodle dishes, as well as a signature meatball, in a dining environment inspired by nature. The bar extends 40 feet through the restaurant to accommodate up to 42 guests, and features a sizeable array of sake, as well as many Asian and craft beers and signature craft cocktails.

Line & Lure

Seafood Kitchen and Tap – Line & Lure Seafood Kitchen and Tap brings the best of the local waters to the table. This is a vibrant spot to gather for toast-worthy stories and plates piled aplenty in the spirit of the Pacific Northwest. Seasonal and indigenous seafood is sourced at the peak of flavor, arriving to the kitchen with shipping bills and source of origin in tow. At the bustling hearth of Line & Lure, guests can experience the craft of a true fisherman.

Chef Jet

Chef Jet is a fast, fresh and flavorful quick-serve eatery based on modern Asian cuisine. Featuring rice and noodles, lean meats marinated in spicy and savory sauces and an infinite combination of crisp, fresh vegetables topped with tangy seasonings. Chef Jet is located in The Market at ilani.

Smashburger

Not just any beef; fresh, never frozen beef. Smashburger also offers Smashchicken burgers, fries, fresh all-grilled beef or chicken salads, Avocado Ranch Black Bean Burgers for our vegetarians, a whole breakfast menu, Häagen Dazs® hand-spun shakes, sodas, teas and alcoholic beverages. Smashburger is located in The Market at ilani.

Coffee Shop in The Market at ilani

We’re pleased to serve Starbucks espresso, brewed coffee and tea at our coffee shop. Stop by for your favorite hot and iced drinks featuring a seasonal rotation of limited time offers. Plus grab quick snacks, pastries and grab-n-go food options.

i.talia

With a menu featuring Italian-style pizzas, delightful entrée-style salads, fresh pasta and sandwiches roasted to perfection in the deck oven, i.talia has something to please every taste. i.talia is committed to using the best, freshest ingredients and the result is delicious! i.talia is located in The Market at ilani.

Butcher & Baker

Combining high quality ingredients, house-sliced meats and seasonality, B+B has a range of delicious sandwiches, salads, subs and soup. These made-to-order sandwiches feature premium hand-carved meats stacked on bread freshly baked in-house from La Brea. Butcher & Baker is located in The Market at ilani.

Retail

Marshall Rousso

For more than 50 years, Marshall Rousso has been Marshall Retail Group’s flagship women’s fashion boutique. Shoppers discover a unique collection of trendy apparel, casual styles, accessories and footwear. Designer brands include Clara Sunwoo, Frank Lyman, Michael Kors, Vocal, Joseph Ribkoff, Onex and Bernie Mev.

Ruby Blue

Co-located with Marshall Rousso, Ruby Blue features the hottest trends in costume jewelry, handbags, accessories and more. Designs range from conservative to chic and urban to sophisticated. Signature brands include Fossil, Swarovski, Spartina, Anuschka, Noelle, Anju and Nikibiki.

Cowlitz Trading Post

Find a wide assortment of ilani logo apparel and gaming gifts, essentials, candy and practically anything else a guest may need.

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About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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