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By Randy Economy
City council members in Hawaiian Gardens have voted to approve a massive $45 million dollar casino project that has been in the works for the past 16 years.
City officials have been working with executives of the Hawaiian Gardens Casino since 1997 to build a new “permanent structure” that when completed will become an instant landmark in the growing landscape of Southern California casinos.
The new project consists of demolition of a “tent membrane structure” that houses the existing Casino and replace it with a modern two-story, 202,111 square foot building that will feature a variety of poker genre betting games.
Residents and city officials so far seemed in total agreement about the merits of the project, that when completed, will also include new landscaping, street signage, and lighting improvements around the immediate area of the location.
The new Casino will also have five potential off-site parking lots that have been identified to accommodate excess demand during peak operating hours. “We have thought of every conceivable amenity for this new casino,” said Joe Colombo, Director of Community Development for the City of Hawaiian Gardens.
Located on Carson Boulevard, east of the 605 Freeway, the new project includes the repaving and reconfiguring of the existing parking area, as well as demolishing existing structures located at 11822 Carson Street and 22434 Norwalk Boulevard to accommodate two of the off-site parking lots.
The existing Casino consists of approximately 59,596 square feet of floor area that includes 45,858 square feet of gaming area inside of a “domed tent” that was originally constructed two decades ago out of a sprung membrane.
Avid poker players sometime refer to the current casino as “the tent” or “the dome.”
“It always amazes me that this temporary structure has been so strong and upheld pretty nicely for so many years,” said Richard Martinez, a resident of nearby Cypress who visits the casino on a regular basis.
City officials are projecting that construction of the new casino will be completed in 24 months as soon as final plan checks are polished off between both parties.
Colombo told Hews Media Group – Community News in an interview that “we are pretty much done with the approval process, and now we are working on the final plan checks.”
“They got the green light and are ready to go out to bid to vendors to get the project underway,” Colombo said. As for the “temporary tent” structure that has housed the casino for the past generation, Colombo quipped, “Yep, we will be getting rid of it once and for all, and that’s a promise.”
“The city always wanted a permanent building and now is the perfect economic market to move this project forward,” Colombo said.
City officials now focus their attention on working with casino executives and construction experts over the next several weeks as the project gets ready go into high gear.
“A lot of this is now in the hands of the Casino, the city council has done its job, the city staff has done our job, and all of the legislative work is done. We can’t wait for groundbreaking and bulldozers to start digging,” Colombo said.
“This casino has great things for Hawaiian Gardens. We had some residents express their concern about certain aspects of the new casino and that was to be expected,” he said.
“The temporary membrane was built in 1997, and we would have never thought that it would last for 16 years,” Colombo said.
“This tent casino has lived through rain and hail storms, heat waves, a couple of earthquakes, and power outages. Getting a new casino with real walls is going to seem a little odd,” said one local poker player from Artesia who did not want to be identified.
The casino is the largest employer within the city of Hawaiian Gardens. According to the internet site Wikipedia, the Hawaiian Gardens Casino has 1,000 employees, as compared to Tri Cities Regional Medical Center who comes in second place with 350 employees.
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