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Tribal leaders for the Graton Resort and Casino on Tuesday celebrated a milestone in the construction of their 200-room hotel and convention space next to the Rohnert Park gaming complex.

“We’re halfway through, today,” tribal chairman Greg Sarris told a gathering of 500 supporters and construction workers.

On Tuesday, a tall red crane hoisted the last steel beam to the top of what will be the six-story hotel. The 3,500-pound beam, covered with the signatures of workers and well wishers, was set in place by two harnessed construction workers.

Sarris told those present to expect another celebration this fall when the hotel opens. He scoffed at those who before construction had predicted the casino “was going to be a dump in the field, and all of that.”

“It’s no dump,” Sarris said. “It’s the Taj Mahal.”

Tribal leaders and casino officials said the $175 million addition will feature a high-end hotel run by the casino and 20,000 square feet of event space. The multi-use space will be big enough to accommodate 1,000 convention goers or upwards of 2,000 concert guests.

“The North Bay really needs that,” Sarris told the crowd. “We have no place for big conventions. So here it is. Graton will be providing that wonderful opportunity.”

The casino, owned by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and operated by Station Casinos of Las Vegas, opened in late 2013 along the northwest edge of Rohnert Park. It ranks as one of the five largest casinos in the state and employs 1,500 workers.

The hotel project broke ground in September. When completed, it is expected to employ about 200 people.

Its standard rooms will be a larger-than-normal, 500 square feet, and it will feature suites up to about 2,600 square feet.

The facility will include a 10,000-square-foot spa and a resort-style swimming pool.

Casino vice president and general manager Joe Hasson said he is aiming to receive four-star status for the hotel. The facility, he said, will add to the appeal of Wine Country as a tourist destination.

“This is just one more reason to come or to stay another day or so,” Hasson said.

Station Casinos will operate the hotel. It has yet to set a specific opening date or to release room rates.

Ken Fischang, president and CEO of Sonoma County Tourism, said the hotel’s event center will be “a great new space” for concerts and other events.

Some larger conventions also may be willing to come to Rohnert Park and house their members at multiple hotels, Fischang said, but “most of them want to be under one roof.”

Two of the county’s hotels that now handle larger meetings appear to have almost as much indoor event space as the Graton hotel will, but the square footage is divided among a number of rooms.

The website for the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa says its largest ballroom can accommodate up to 400 guests for a banquet or 600 for a reception. The website for the Doubletree by Hilton in Rohnert Park says it can handle meetings or banquets for up to 500 guests.

As part of Tuesday’s festivities, visitors were taken by shuttle bus to a nearby parking garage to view the exact replicas of two hotel rooms. The king and queen rooms featured a mix of earth and citrus tones and even included large windows looking out on faux vineyards.

The replica rooms are built to ensure that the architects and designers haven’t overlooked something that would create a problem during construction, said R.T. Browning, the project director for Station Casinos. Otherwise, such an error could get replicated in each of the 184 standard hotel rooms.

Hotel guests who stay on the second floor or higher will be able to look out to hills that surround the city, Browning said. “There’s not a bad view.”

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @rdigit

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