North Bay casino construction hits a milestone


For a few brief moments, the sounds of churning concrete mixers came to a halt. Workers ducked under the yellow caution tape to gather and celebrate.

"Today's topping out signifies an important milestone in the construction for this project," said Jeff Janakus, the Design and Construction vice president.

"Topping out" is construction lingo for lifting the final steel beam into place. It's often done with a small tree attached for good luck and it's almost always met with applause.

But these cheers will soon be replaced with another sound -- the unmistakable noise of 3,000 slot machines -- in what's to become by far the Bay Area's biggest Indian casino.

"We stand here today right at the front of what will ultimately be the casino's future front door," said General manager Joe Hasson.

Hasson is from Station Casinos in Las Vegas. They run casinos that cater to locals, not just tourists, and say this one's no exception.

"Locals in Las Vegas, who are the most savvy customers, it's what they've come to expect and demand. We will build something not only as good, but better than that here," said Hasson.

And Hasson says the resort will create about 2,000 permanent jobs when it opens, by the end of this year.

"It will be the local people that constitute our core workforce, and I know that is a blessing in tough economic times to people that are looking for work," said Hasson.

Workers say the structure's gone up with astonishing speed -- all of this just since August, but to get here required navigating years of controversy, controversy that isn't quite over yet.

Concerns over water supply and traffic top the list for opponents who are suing, alleging the Indians of Graton Rancheria have no right to allow gambling here. The coalition behind that effort wasn't available to talk on camera, but released a statement saying their lawsuit is pending and they still believe they can keep this giant building's doors from opening.

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