Sycuan Casino breaks ground on expansion into Sycuan Casino-Resort
By B.J. Coleman
For The Alpine Sun
Looking into the unknown future can be daunting and difficult, but adventurers and builders forge on nonetheless. This is based on a vision of what may lay ahead.
The tribal council of the Sycuan band of the Kumeyaay Nation has a 2019 vision for transforming East County’s Sycuan Casino, to benefit the local community and enhance the experiences of casino visitors.
At the groundbreaking ceremony for site expansion on March 28, event speakers described the envisioned plan as “amazing,” “exciting,” and “incredible.” The project is priced at $226 million to add to the existing facilities 500,000 square feet, with 60,000 of it new gaming space. The most stunning new addition will be a 12-story hotel featuring stone, glass and wood, which will be complemented by an adjacent resort-style pool and gardens.
Welcome to the Sycuan Casino-Resort of the near future.
“This is taking Sycuan to the next level,” said Cody Martinez, chairman of the Sycuan Tribal Council.
The gaming-related expansion will include space for 2,500 Class III machines, 300 Class II machines and 80 table games. A conference and events center will include an 11,401 square foot ballroom with concert seating capacity of 1,200 and banquet seating capable of hosting 700 guests.
The new hotel will contain 300 rooms, including 50 luxury suites. The spa and fitness center will take up about 8,451 square feet for treatment rooms, steam rooms and sauna, and exercise equipment. New dining options will cover the range from fast casual to fine dining. The current GameDay Sports Bar & Grill will be converted to a brew house featuring local craft beers.
Sycuan is no ordinary business, by any standards. The official ceremony rolling out the project began with a traditional Kumeyaay Nation blessing and Kumeyaay bird singers celebrating the occasion.
“Sycuan is a small family business,” emcee Nick Hardwick said. The most highly honored guests in attendance were members of the Sycuan band. Martinez recognized tribal elders by name, from oldest to youngest.
“We should begin describing this journey by taking a trip back in time,” Martinez said, showing an archive photo from November 1983 of the Sycuan Bingo Palace.
Martinez continued, outlining a brief history of Indian gaming as a successful struggle to benefit everyone involved.
“We wanted to put people to work, especially our tribal members, but others in the community too. We wanted to put asphalt down to pave our roads. We wanted to buy braces for our kids’ teeth. And we wanted to help our community,” he said.
Martinez recounted that this year 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the fight against states attempting to wrest regulatory control in contravention of Indian gaming as established under federal constitutional guarantees of tribal sovereignty.
“Sycuan was among those to lead the charge in this effort,” Martinez said. “And this was all based on hard work.” Martinez summed up, “This is an investment in the community.”
The new, slightly revised branding slogan for Sycuan Casino-Resort is “PLAY. WIN. Build. TOGETHER.” The golf club will return to roots as Singing Hills Golf Resort at Sycuan.
Hardwick built further on that building theme, “San Diego is a passionate city.” He described how difficult loss of the Chargers football team has been.
And he continued, “This is also a city thirsty for progress.” He praised Sycuan as a business for having “a vision,” not only for today but also for 20 to 30 years out. He cited the tribal council leaders for leadership, transparency, trust, and loyalty to the community. He noted that annually Sycuan donates to over 700 local organizations, including charities and youth sports groups. Other honored guests attending the groundbreaking ceremony were representatives from those charitable groups that Sycuan supports.
John Dinius, general manager of Sycuan Casino, went into more detail about the design process and how plans were developed over 18 months.
“This was based on collaboration, communication and focusing on the guest perspective,” Dinius stated. “We want to engage our clientele.”
Dinius explained that the added amenities were carefully chosen to elevate the gaming experience.
“This is a very exciting day for us,” Dinius concluded. “This was a long time in the making.”
Information on the casino of today can be found at www.sycuan.com. More about the casino-resort of tomorrow can be viewed at www.sycuanvision.com.