COOS BAY — After months of construction, Three Rivers Casino Coos Bay and its 250 new games are set to open next week.
The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians' 15,000-square-foot class II gaming facility, located at 1297 Ocean Blvd., will open at 1 p.m. Thursday, May 7, with a small ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Former tribal council chair Bob Garcia said the $15 million project, including $5 million for the construction of the building and more than $600,000 in security equipment, is primarily targeted toward local tastes and preferences, with 80 percent of clientele expected to be local.
"What we were trying to do was a locals' casino," Garcia said. "There is an example in the way things are done and that would be Station Casinos in the Las Vegas market. Station is kind of for all the people that work in the other casinos. We're going to have a lot of local things and want a comfortable place for people to come after work."
The casino's restaurant and bar, Cafe 1297, will employ the same mindset, with the menu ultimately being determined by guests' tastes.
"We're trying to aim for that Cheers neighborhood bar because most of the folks here are going to Coos Bay local and are not going to be coming from Portland very often," Garcia said. "Folks from Portland are certainly welcome, but you've got to find your way over here so it means you really need to listen to your guest and make sure you do the best you can to meet their needs."
Although the casino faces competition from other local venues, Garcia said multiple feasibility studies arrived at the same conclusion that the market and demographics could support the venture.
"Competition improves quality and there's more than a large enough market," Garcia said. "Besides, guest services increase when there is more competition."
Aside from meeting local consumer demand, the casino will also put more people to work than originally expected.
While the new casino has filled 90 full-time jobs, Garcia said it will employ closer to 110 total employees, who were undergoing training at the Three Rivers Casino and Hotel in Florence on Tuesday.
While the opening of the casino has been in the works since 2007, Garcia envisioned the business as just the beginning of better things to come in the Empire area.
"What I see this as is the first step in the revitalization of Empire," Garcia said. "Empire has been on the way down and could use a shot in the arm. It has a lot of qualities, and I've seen it in a lot of areas near Portland that have suddenly improved. We want to make investments in the area and see things improve."