It was 2 p.m. last Thursday, just a regular day of the week.
Desert Diamond West Valley Casino’s parking lot was flush, so to speak.
Cars were circling and circling, looking for a parking space like the mall during Christmas time.
Clearly, the West Valley is ready for the Tohono O’odham Nation’s massive expansion. A temporary casino has been here at 91st and Northern avenues, bordered by Glendale and Peoria. Next to it, construction crews are working intensely on the final phases of the permanent casino.
Starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, the new casino will be ready to roll.
A snapshot of the new casino:
Cost: $400 million.
Size: 75,000 square feet interior,
2.3 million square feet total.
Crew: 2,000 workers.
Food: Five restaurants.
Slots: 1,000 slot machines.
Poker: 36 poker tables.
Blackjack: 48 blackjack tables.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Treena Parvello, director of Government Relations and Communications for the nation.
“We’re excited to finally unveil the next phase for this unique amenity in the West Valley, which is creating jobs and opportunities. This would not have been possible without the leadership of the Tohono O’odham Nation, and the guidance of the Enterprise Management Board,” she added.
The Tohono O’odham Nation announced in mid-2018 the new casino would be ready by December 2019. The massive construction nearly hit its mark.
“Our construction team has done an amazing job keeping this enormous project moving forward. We’re also fortunate to have a dedicated staff of team members who have kept a twenty-four-hour operation running smoothly in the middle of a massive construction effort,” said Parvello.
Glendale Councilman Ian Hugh explained the unique relationship:
“It is a nation within our borders,” said Hugh.
“It’s been wonderful,” Hugh said. “We are the only city in Arizona I know of that has a special agreement with a gaming nation.”
Even though Glendale is not allowed to tax Tohono O’odham Nation enterprises, “They offered us $1 million dollars a year,” Hugh said.
In the time since the interim casino opened, the Tohono O’odham Nation has written checks to Glendale for more than $4 million.
“It’s a great relationship,” Hugh said.
He noted the economic impact of the casino goes far beyond the nation’s annual financial payment to the city.
“We now have the largest casino in the state, it’s going to bring in thousands and thousands of people,” Hugh said.
“I can’t keep track of all the hotels lining up to come here,” he added, noting the casino is a prime lure.
Desert Diamond Casino West Valley is just north of the Westgate Entertainment District, Gila River Arena and State Farm Stadium.
The new casino “ties in perfectly with the sports and entertainment district,” Hugh said.
A big push for the casino was hiring over the last few months, with a target of 2,000 employees.
The casino project was first announced in 2009.
For the nation, it’s a $400 million gamble.
But there is a reason the saying “the house always wins” has longevity.
“An interim casino facility opened in December 2015 to huge crowds, and has seen great success over the past four years,” said Matt Smith, a casino spokesman.
The new casino will be twice as large as the temporary one.
“The interim property created over 700 jobs and has had hundreds of millions of dollars in positive economic impacts,” Smith said.
He noted the new casino will have a VIP lounge and gaming space and additional covered parking.
Tohono O’odham Nation views the new casino as a project not only for the West Valley, but by the West Valley community.
“All of us at Desert Diamond Casino are very grateful for the incredible support we’ve received from the community since day one,” said Parvello.
“We will continue working with our local partners to build a more vibrant and prosperous West Valley.”
Though Desert Diamond West Valley casino lists its address as 9431 W. Northern Avenue, Glendale, it is closer to Peoria City Hall (3.2 miles) than Glendale City Hall (5.2 miles).
Peoria welcomes the new casino.
“These large-scale attractions bring more people to the area, which In turn creates a positive economic environment for surrounding businesses,” said Rick Buss, Peoria’s director of Economic Development.
“Although Peoria has not done a specific economic impact study on this project, we know prominent destination development will bring strong economic derivatives to the area and region. Peoria is happy to see the casino is enjoying great success in the West Valley.”
More to come
Though a $400 million project is in itself impressive, this is not the final phase of the plan for the area.
“This is just the beginning,” said Smith.
“Preliminary plans for future phases of construction include additional amenities such as a hotel, spa and convention center.”
In 2018, the Tohono O’odham Nation purchased nearly 11 acres owned by the city near the casino property. The land, on the south side of Northern Avenue one-half mile west of 91st Avenue, gave the nation ownership of the land near the new casino.
“I just want to thank the city for the support on the endeavor in purchasing this land,” Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Edward Manuel said, in 2018. “We purchased over 54 acres to build a casino and also purchased 88 acres for future economic development and this purchase makes our land complete for future development.”
The city, which purchased the land in 2002, sold it to the Nation for $3.1 million.
The Tohono O’odham Nation purchased the larger parcel of land in an unincorporated portion of Glendale in 2003.
The culmination of years of planning and hundreds of millions of dollars will be on display soon.
Though he said he is not a gambler, Hugh for one can hardly wait.
Sintra Hoffman, president and CEO of WESTMARC, has been anxiously awaiting the opening. “This project has been in the works for many years and we’re thankful for the commitment, dedication and tenacity of the Tohono O’odham Nation’s Tribal Leadership,” Hoffman said.
“From an economic development perspective, the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino just added an incredible amenity to the region that will also serve as a business attraction asset.”
The casino will wish its temporary home farewell with specials and drawings Tuesday, Feb. 18, the night before the grand opening.
The Tohono O’odham Nation has pushed in its chips, and is ready to play.
For more information on Desert Diamond Casino West Valley, 9431 W. Northern Avenue, Glendale, visit ddcaz.com/west-valley/.