Business & Real Estate

Thunder Valley casino bets $56 million in upgrades, additions will beat the competition

Thunder Valley Casino Resort on Friday showed off $56 million in upgrades and additions to its hotel and casino, a massive effort to retain long-time visitors, attract high rollers from all corners of the nation and get a leg up on future competition.

On Friday, resort officials took media members on a hard-hat tour of the ongoing construction efforts in the casino area. That included a new 25,000-square-foot, smoke-free poker room and bingo hall, plus a planned expansion of the current poker room to new a high-limit slots area.

Officials also confirmed completion of the previously announced effort to finish three floors of its 17-story hotel, adding 111 rooms to the property.

Next up for the hotel: upgrades to the luxury suites, the biggest of them comprising 2,100 square feet, with opulent furnishings and fixtures.

“This is what you can do when business is good. Business is good, and the economy is hot,” said Doug Elmets, a spokesman for the Lincoln resort, which is owned by the United Auburn Indian Community.

Elmets and resort officials repeatedly mentioned the need to stay up to date and offer top amenities to visitors, especially given the Wilton Rancheria’s plans to build a tribal casino and hotel next to Highway 99 at the south end of Elk Grove. That project has been estimated at $400 million.

Even so, Dawn Clayton, Thunder Valley’s general manager, said that many of the Lincoln resort’s upgrades were driven by guest demand and were in the works before the Wilton Rancheria project was on the public radar.

During Friday’s tour, construction workers whisked among wires, cables, marble fixtures and big-screen TVs, piecing together the myriad amenities that will make up the massive new poker room and bingo hall.

The poker room will include 27 tables, with convention space that will allow up to 45 tables for larger tournaments. A top-end configuration would take in 75 tables. The deadline for completion of the 7,000-square-foot room is March 1. The next day, the casino is scheduled to host a World Poker Tour event.

The poker room will have 34 televisions, a full bar and extensive multimedia options.

In the neighboring bingo hall, a 13,000-square-foot room is being built to cater to the desires of players who provided extensive feedback to the casino.

The resort is aiming for an April 1 opening.

The new high-limit slots area will add 80 machines, boosting the high-limit total on-site to more than 200. The entry-level high-limit machines feature $1 denominations, but $125 can be on the line with a single spin. The adjacent boutique off the lobby will be converted to a high-end bar, with specially crafted furnishings and fixtures. Officials are aiming for a July 1 opening of the high-limit slots area and neighboring bar.

By midyear, the resort will have more than 3,400 slot machines on the property.

During the recession, Thunder Valley left three floors of the 17-story hotel unfinished temporarily. Now, the resort is riding a strong economic wave.

Officials said the hotel is regularly pegged at 97 percent capacity, and the resort gets 16,000 to 22,000 visitors a day on average. Employment is around 2,600, with the newly expanded facilities expected to add another 100 to the payroll.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover