Soboba breaks ground for phase one of retail center

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An artist’s rendering shows the proposed design of a convenience store and gas station that will be part of the future Sovovatum Village. Valley News/Carlos Puma/Puma Images photo

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to Valley News

The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, by way of its Soboba Economic Development Corporation, has begun construction for the Sovovatum Village, a retail center that will serve as a gateway to greet all visitors to the Soboba Casino Resort and the reservation. Located at the southeast corner of Lake Park Drive and Soboba Road, the completed center will feature 60,000 square feet of retail space. A groundbreaking ceremony for phase one – a gas station and convenience store – was held August 13.

More than 150 Soboba Tribal Members, shareholders, partners and members of the Soboba Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) gathered to witness this momentous occasion that has been years in the making. Since its establishment in 2016, the SEDC has worked tirelessly to realize the economic vision of past and present Soboba Tribal Council members. Serving on its board of directors at the time of the groundbreaking were Chairwoman Becky Flores, Vice Chairman Lakshman Koka, Secretary/Treasurer Lori Van Arsdale and Directors Michael Castello and Sasha Pachito.

Castello served as master of ceremonies for the 30-minute ceremony, welcoming everyone who was there to witness “this historical moment.” He introduced Soboba’s Monica Herrera who gave a traditional blessing, which was followed by two songs from Wayne Nelson and the Intertribal Bird Singers. Castello then announced Becky Flores as “the main catalyst for this project.”

Flores said she was thankful for those in attendance, and she thanked God for “allowing all of our paths to cross and join our strengths, talents, skills, knowledge and experience to create a beautiful master plan development: Sovovatum Village.”

“This is a long-awaited day, literally 20 years in the making,” Flores said. “Thanks goes to the vision and determination of our past Tribal Council, back in 2001 they had a vision for future development so we could sustain economic enterprises for our tribal people. In 2007, the Tribal Council submitted an application to the United States Department of the Interior to place this land into Trust. Finally, in 2015, Soboba received approval and the land was placed into Trust.

“It has been a very exciting time (for me) as a Tribal Member to see all the development and progress that has taken place for our Tribe since that time when our land was placed into Trust. It takes a great deal of commitment and focus to transform a vision into a reality,” Flores said.

“I want to thank God and our general membership for allowing me to serve my Tribe and entrusting me to lead the corporation’s board of directors. It’s been a very exciting adventure to say the least, and an honor to be creating new business opportunities for Soboba,” Flores said. “We break ground on our Roadrunner Express fuel station and convenience store today, which we couldn’t have done without everyone here today, including our project team. It’s a very special day for all of us.”

Soboba Tribal Council Chairman Isaiah Vivanco thanked everyone for their hard work to get this project going, reiterating that in 2015 the land was given to the Soboba people in Trust and they immediately went to work on many projects as part of the master plan to make sure that everything was ready to go for the future.

“As you can see, the resort and golf course are doing outstanding. We couldn’t be happier, and we know that this addition will be just as successful,” he said. “We continue to grow; we have development to the south of us, with the (Soboba Crossroads) retail center going up so we have a lot going on, a lot for us to be proud of as we continue to work and move forward to try to progress and bring more opportunities to the Tribe. We are looking forward to it.”

SEDC spent many months engaging and planning for this project. Meetings were held with shareholders to obtain their much-valued input for design and concepts. The final plans reflect thoughtful decisions that have allowed the team to implement the visions that resulted from those meetings. Creating a sense of place that is tied to the history of the Tribe was an important goal.

Members of the Soboba Economic Development Corporation have been working closely with Oak & Stone Development and KTGY Architecture/Branding/Interiors/Planning on this project. KTGY was hired to prepare a master plan for the overall site and phase one architecture. The design allows for a variety of uses including food and beverage sites, shops, recreational uses, a convenience store, fueling station, car wash and community gathering area, all organized to serve as an attractive entrance to the Tribe’s land holdings while complimenting its hotel and casino.

The design for Sovovatum Village, meaning “the people/village of Soboba” (present-day spelling), reflects the Tribe’s agrarian heritage and the beauty of the surrounding setting by incorporating water and landscaping authentic to the history of their use of the land. Striking architectural and hardscape elements will utilize organic material and color. Phasing was a key element of the plan, allowing for the Tribe to establish a sense of place while moving forward with appropriate first phase construction of the convenience store and fueling station.

Phase one will focus on land preparation and access that includes street widening, traffic signals and crosswalks, utility infrastructure, a 5,500-sq.ft. convenience store with drive-thru capabilities, additional site pads and a gas station with 20 pumps, two of which will be diesel to accommodate toy haulers, RVs and trailers. The finished project will contain 12 buildings and 240 required parking spaces.

A special thank you was given to the Boniface family – Sandy, Charlotte and Monica Herrera –and all their children and grandchildren, for preparing lunch for everyone. All attendees were invited to the Soboba Sports Complex to eat and mingle after the commemorative shovels were used to turn the dirt, officially breaking ground for Sovovatum Village.