Amid early property success

California's Sky River Casino considers hotel, convention center expansion six months after opening

Sky River Casino's gaming floor.
Reading time 2:58 min

Six months after opening the doors of their Sky River Casino in Elk Grove, California, the Wilton Rancheria tribe is already considering an expansion that could involve a hotel, convention center, and more restaurants. 

In its original designs, the tribe had planned on building a 302-room hotel and convention center at the casino. But as increasing costs drove the construction price up, the tribe had a harder time financing the project. In consequence, they pared down the original project and just built the casino. Now, the property is open and generating revenue, making it easier to finance more projects at the site. 

In a recent statement, Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chair Jesus Tarango referred to this Miwok and Nisenan tribes’ continued interest in adding other amenities next to their $500 million casino, near Highway 99 and Kammerer Road. 

We have never wavered in our vision to create a complete entertainment resort. In the short time we’ve been open, we are already moving on with our plans. And that speaks volumes about our partner (Boyd Gaming Corporation), but also tribal leadership past and present,” he said, as reported by Elk Grove Citizen. “We will continue to invest to enhance the Sky River experience, and that means evaluating all expansion opportunities.”

David Strow, vice president of corporate communications for Las Vegas-based Boyd , told the Citizen on February 28 that there are a variety of options for the tribe when it comes to expanding Sky River.

“Does that include a hotel, does it include meeting and convention space, does it include an expansion of the casino, does it add new restaurants?” he asked. “Those are things we need to discuss with the tribe to see what makes sense. You know, how can we make Sky River even more attractive throughout the region?”

Strow noted that the Wilton Rancheria reached a position to possibly expand due to the early success of their 100,000-square-foot casino, which features 2,000 slot machines, 80 table games and 12 restaurants and bars.

“Both Boyd and the tribe could not be happier with how Sky River has come out of the gate. It’s doing absolutely fantastic. I think it’s actually exceeding our expectations for what we expected from the property,” he said.

Boyd Gaming receives a certain percentage of Sky River’s earnings as a fee for its management of the casino, which is owned by the Wilton Rancheria. “We anticipate that we will receive $50 million in 2023 as a management fee for the property,” the executive said, noting it is a minority of the amount that the tribe will expect to receive.

Strow added that the early success of the casino can be credited to its “ideal” location off Highway 99, south of Sacramento, and the quality of the casino, which he referred to as offering a “first-in-class entertainment experience.”

Sky River Casino's grand opening was held last August

The executive assured to the cited source that, with a sufficient and continuous flow of incoming funds from their casino and additional land to build upon next to the casino, the Wilton Rancheria is “in a good position to consider their options for an expansion.”

“They are the ones that will tell us, at the end of the day, when the time is to expand and what should be added,” he said. “That will be their call. But what I will tell you is that when the tribe is ready to go, we will be ready to get to work for them.”

The Wilton Rancheria tribe and Boyd Gaming completed the construction of Sky River Casino in August, and opened its doors to the community in a surprise midnight launch two weeks ahead of schedule. The casino was more than 10 years in the making for the tribe, which regained its federal recognition in 2009.

Between the tribe and Boyd Gaming, the casino partners now own all 100 acres of land Howard Hughes Corp. once planned as a shopping center and had been the site of a partially built mall that was a victim of the 2008 real estate market collapse. 

It’s a really big footprint, and my guess is that in the coming years, the entire area will be developed,” Chris Gibase, Sky River’s chief operating officer and president, told Sacramento Business Journal. “You could take any Las Vegas property and pick it up and put it here, and still have a lot of space leftover. The question here is what does the tribe want to see,” he concluded.

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