The end of April has become an important annual milestone for the ilani Casino and Resort in Ridgefield.
The Cowlitz Indian Tribe opened the casino on April 24, 2017. A groundbreaking for the hotel came at the same point in 2021. And on Monday, hundreds of visitors and members of the tribe traveled to northern Clark County to see the full opening for the ilani Hotel.
“Some years ago we opened this land for a new era for the Cowlitz people. We welcomed you to our home. Now we welcome you to our village,” Tanna Engdahl, spiritual leader for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, said during the opening celebration.
The 14-story ilani Hotel is the tallest building in Clark County. The hotel has just fewer than 300 rooms, ranging in size between 400 and 2,000 square feet.
The hotel and casino are connected by a “Cowlitz cultural corridor” guests walked through after the ribbon cutting. Tribal artifacts line the hallway in display cases, along with large video screens displaying information about Cowlitz traditions.
Cowlitz Indian Tribe Chair Patty Kinswa-Gaiser said that throughout, the hotel is infused with designs and items that are important for the tribe.
For example, the lights hanging over the main lobby are designed to resemble hand drums — like the ones played during the dedication ceremony. The wood carvings in the lobby and virtually all of the artwork in the rooms and hallways were made by Cowlitz artists.
“It all came naturally because we had our group of elders that was working with the design team,” Kinswa-Gaiser said.
Reservations for the hotel rooms were already on the books, starting Monday night. The ilani website is booking rooms with prices ranging from $199 on weekdays to more than $1,200 a night for a deluxe suite over the weekend.
The opening tours focused on the three floors with the amenities for hotel guests: the ground floor, second floor, and 15th floor (which is the top floor because the hotel skips the unlucky 13th story). The spacious lobby includes a café with drinks from Red Leaf Organic Coffee and a bar and bistro.
The draw for the second floor is the hotel pool. The pool includes cabanas and a waterside bar, but the biggest selling point is the retractable wall that allows it to operate indoors or outdoors, depending on weather.
The top floor features a new restaurant called Bella Vista that combines fine dining-type Italian food with ingredients that are traditional tribal staples or seasonal flavors in the Pacific Northwest, such as salmon and Camas bulbs. Bella Vista’s food and namesake views east across the Cascades are one of the few sections of the hotel that will be open for visitors who aren’t staying there.
“There is not anything like the restaurant in the rest of Clark County,” ilani President and General Manager Kara Fox-LaRose said. “I think there’s a draw for our guests and an opportunity for the region as well.”
Monday morning was also the ribbon cutting for the Kids Quest child care center and the Cyber Quest arcade, two new areas of the casino aimed at entertaining children while their older family members are busy in the main building.
While the hotel is a long-awaited milestone for ilani, the complex is continuing to expand. Days earlier, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe opened its first marijuana dispensary blocks away from the casino. A renovation and expansion of the event center at the casino is currently underway and is expected to be done in early 2024.
Fox-LaRose said the hotel was designed so the tribe could add a second tower of rooms if there’s more demand from visitors than expected.