‘Topping Ceremony’ marks milestone for Pechanga Resort & Casino

A ceremonial oak tree is lifted by crane to the top of the 14-story south tower of the Pechanga Resort & Casino. The expansion will provide 568 additional rooms, 560 permanent jobs and $55 million of additional economic benefit to the area. Paul Bandong photo
A ceremonial oak tree is lifted by crane to the top of the 14-story south tower of the Pechanga Resort & Casino. The expansion will provide 568 additional rooms, 560 permanent jobs and $55 million of additional economic benefit to the area. Paul Bandong photo

Scores of people – elected officials, local dignitaries, construction workers and management, Pechanga tribal members and Pechanga team members, as well as media from all over – gathered to witness the historic “Topping Ceremony’ of the new addition that will make the resort and casino the largest on the West Coast.

The “topping out” featured the pouring of the final 710 tons of concrete into the upper framing – 14 stories high—of the new hotel tower that will house 568 rooms and suites. A huge crane hoisted a car-sized concrete-filled bucket and American flag to the top of the south tower; a small sacred oak, preserved from the property, hitched a ride on the bucket and was placed atop the tower as a symbol of strength and perseverance. The ceremonial tree will be planted later near the pool area.

“Today we celebrate the topping out of this new tower which will give us 568 brand-new AAA Four-Diamond rooms,” Edith Atwood, president of the Pechanga Development Corporation, said. “When our resort expansion is done in December, guests will be able to enjoy 13 restaurants, 1,100 rooms and suites, a 4 1/2-acre pool complex, a two-story luxury spa, lots of event space, a beautiful championship 18-hole golf course and a casino floor that’s bigger and better than any on the West Coast.”

The completed complex will provide over 200,000 square feet of casino floor, 100,000 square feet of indoor meeting and convention space and another 174,500 square feet outdoors. Pool areas will feature 13 pools and spas, including kid-friendly areas. A large expanse of roof will be “green.”

“This is a very special day,” Dick Rizzo of Tutor and Perini, general contractor for the original building and now the project expansion, said. “Our journey started 16 years ago, and I want to extend our sincere gratitude on behalf of our over 100 subcontractors and vendors for allowing us to be partners on one of the most premier destination resorts in the country.”

The two-year expansion project provided 3,000 construction-related jobs. Materials were largely sourced from Southern California. Builders poured 81,000 tons of concrete and used 2,174 tons of reinforcing steel. The base of the intersecting hotel towers is 70 feet wide and 13 feet deep, allowing for a tunnel system for Pechanga team members to move throughout the property for efficient guest service.

“This is a testament to what we believed in when we had a vacant lot and a few trailers, then 45 trailers, then a permanent casino,” Andrew Masiel, Sr, Pechanga Development Corp. board member, said.

Atwood complimented the dedicated involvement of Patrick Murphy, another board member, who “was an instrumental part of the construction of the original casino and brought his wealth of knowledge and experience to the many moving parts of this project.”

“Today is a good day for the Pechanga people and the local community,” Murphy said. “It is another step in our legacy and provides jobs and education for future members of our tribe. We’ve come a long way from tents and trailers. Planning, construction and building is one thing, but it takes a team. It’s been a great journey.”

Atwood recognized Murphy’s son, Michael, a recent California State University San Marcos business graduate and a construction intern on this project, as part of the future generation that will carry on the tribe’s legacy.

“It is a good thing that we can see the sun, moon and sky today,” Mark Macarro, Pechanga tribal chairman said. “Let me share some numbers: 16, 32, 3,000, 560, 5,800, 550 million, 1.6 billion, 20.

“This year this area experienced 16 inches of rain; we had 32” on our tribal rain gauge. Despite that, thanks to many tireless workers, the project is on schedule. This project provides 3,000 regional construction jobs. The expansion will create 560 permanent jobs, bringing our total employment to 5,800. This is a great economic engine that contributes to our success. This expansion will result in a $550 million increase over our current $1.1 billion economic impact. That is $1.6 billion in direct and indirect economic impact to the local economy.

“This expansion positions us well for the next 20 years. We will be continually challenged, politically, economically, culturally. We are positioning for unknown economic challenges like internet gaming. This economic engine has so far allowed us to face cultural challenges, like stopping the Liberty Quarry. We would not have envisioned at the time of our first building that within 20 years we would be doubling the size of our resort. We look forward to the next 20 years to continue our growth and our legacy.”

Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro expounded on the benefits to the local economy of the expansion of the Pechanga Resort & Casino. Paul Bandong photo
Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro expounded on the benefits to the local economy of the expansion of the Pechanga Resort & Casino. Paul Bandong photo

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