Washington state’s Cowlitz tribe broke ground on the 14th of February 2016 for its proposed $510 million casino-resort that will be constructed west of the La Center. The tribe specifically chosen Valentine’s Day for its ground breaking ceremony because it was on the 14th of Feb 2000 when the tribe was officially recognized by the federal government.

The Cowlitz tribe was awarded 152 acres of land by the Bureau of Indian Affairs back in 2010 west of the La Center, and this is the site that the tribe will use to build its new casino, which is being designed by the famous Friedmutter Group of architects. The tribe kick-started ground work a few months back and has already put in place a steel frame of the building, which is expected to open to the public by the spring of 2017.

The Cowlitz tribe had to fight a legal battle to proceed with the construction of the casino, as it was opposed by a number of groups who alleged that the tribe was only interested in building a casino because the site was located close to Portland and also questioned the authenticity of the tribe’s ties to the property. The lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Barbara J. Rothstein from the U.S. District Court Judge back in December 2014. The plaintiffs have decided to appeal the judges’ decision, but the tribe has full permission to proceed with construction.

The Cowlitz casino will have a gaming floor spread across 100,000 square feet that will feature 2,500 slot machines, 60 high limit slot machines, 5 high limit tables and 75 gaming tables. The casino will also be home to a number of restaurants, bars and conference rooms generating a significant amount of revenue that will benefit the tribe immensely.

In a statement, Roy Wilson, who is a spiritual leader for the tribe, said “I can’t find the words to express what I am feeling inside. We have just begun a great journey. … We came a long, long way, and we have a great future ahead of us.”

The ground breaking ceremony saw close to 500 people in attendance, including former Clark County commissioners; city officials, current and past state legislators, representatives from U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray’s offices; senior leaders of the Cowlitz Tribe and citizens who lived near the location of the casino site.

There were also key members present from Connecticut’s Mohegan Tribe of Indians who will collaborate with the Cowlitz Tribe to help them develop their new casino. Tribal leaders confirmed that the casino project will include the construction of a new Interstate 5 interchange at Exit 16 along with a concert venue.