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Rohnert Park casino rising fast

  • The final 75-foot long steel beam is positioned into place Tuesday at the Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, marking the completion of the building's structure. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / THE PRESS DEMOCRAT)

It took a crane just six minutes and 20 seconds to swing the 75-foot, 7-ton steel beam into its place over the valet entrance of what will become the Bay Area's largest casino resort.

That seemed to capture the speed at which the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria casino project -- in the works since 2003 and still facing lawsuits to stop it -- is progressing now on Rohnert Park's northwest edge.

"We'll be ready later this year to open the doors and say hello to thousands and thousands of guests," said Joe Hasson, general manager of the $800 million gambling palace now well into the construction phase.

He spoke at a Tuesday ceremony held to mark the end of structural work, an event attended by 300 to 400 workers.

Now comes the "big push through the finish phase into the opening," said Jeff Janakus, vice president of design and construction for Station Casinos, the Las Vegas company that is to manage the Graton Resort and Casino for seven years.

Behind him stood the massive skeleton of the 322,000-square-foot building that will house 3,000 slot machines. Mounted on the final steel beam as it was set in place were an American flag and, for good luck, a small tree.

The job started in June, and is on schedule, said Janakus, and as much as possible is being done so that work can continue through the winter.

Base rock is laid on unpaved areas of the 66-acre building site so that workers can get around even if it rains, and a temporary roof has been erected so interior work can carry on regardless of the weather.

"We're driving the exterior wall schedule as fast as possible," he said. And on dry days, two crews are on that job to make up for time lost to wet weather.

A 200-room hotel is planned for the future, probably to the south of the casino, though no date is set for work to start on that, Hasson said. The building site is on the northwest corner of the Graton Rancheria's 254-acre reservation.

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