Happy 20 Year Anniversary Wildhorse Resort & Casino – Northeast Oregon Business News

Happy 20 Year Anniversary Wildhorse Resort & Casino

March/April 2015 NEOBN
 
The CTUIR and Wildhorse leadership had a vision and that vision has steadily become a reality

By Lori Kimbel

When Capital Gaming out of New Jersey first flew over the bare piece of land that would one day become Wildhorse Resort and Casino, they asked themselves, “who would ever come here?” However, there was a select group of people who had a shared vision of what this particular piece of land could look like with a lot of hard work and perseverance.

It has been more than 20 years since that flight took place and Wildhorse Resort and Casino, like a phoenix, has risen from those dusty fields to become the most popular destination in northeast Oregon.

Capital Gaming was hired by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) to help launch a successful casino. Four double wide buildings were brought in and soon there were 100 slot machines, a snack bar, and a money cage.

That temporary casino opened on November 5, 1994 and would serve as a training facility for some hands-on experience for the very first employees of Wildhorse Resort and Casino.

Capital Gaming’s management of Wildhorse, however, was short lived. Within a few months after the opening of the permanent casino in March of 1995, most of the management were being filled and operated by CTUIR members. “It was a sink or swim situation,” said Al Tovey, general manager of Wildhorse Resort and Casino. “And fear is a great motivator.”

Nine of the original 78 are still employed at the casino to this day.

Tovey, who grew up in Malad City, Idaho, started his career at Wildhorse as the marketing manager. “Marketing is a lot more complicated now. I thought I would work at an ad agency in Portland or Seattle, but I absolutely love it here. It has really grown on me. This feels like where I come from, a bunch of small communities with their own unique identities. People are good here and I have never regretted coming here.”

Many of the improvements that have been incorporated over the years have come about because of guests comment card suggestions. Wildhorse has also implement a program through InfoSearch, that allows guest to fill out a survey if they have left an e-mail upon check-in at the hotel. Wildhorse receives approximately 7,000 comments through InfoSearch each year. Staff also pays close attention to comments made through Trip Advisor, as well as Yelp.

“You always have to change and always have to improve,” said Tovey, who reads every single comment card they receive.

Next on the improvement agenda is to create a quiet bar near the hotel lobby in the space where the coffee shop is now located. The coffee shop will go into the gift shop, which will move to a larger retail space, also near the hotel lobby.

“They have always been very forward thinking,” said Community Relations Manager, Tiah DeGrofft, of the management of Wildhorse. “They have always had a five year and a ten year plan.”

Future plans tentatively include another hotel tower and possible a convention center.

The management of Wildhorse Resort and Casino have put a lot of effort into making their quest’s experience unique and ever-changing, and they realize that they could not do it without their staff of 800.

According to DeGrofft, employees attend customer service training events, and are also welcome to participate in Wildhorse’s Wings of Flight training, a one year program that helps employees understand all of the many departments within the resort. Completion of this program improves their chances for career advancement within the resort.

“It gives them a good solid idea of what happens in each department. It is a really good resume builder,” said DeGrofft. “They empower their employees and help them open doors to their own future. It is really top-down leadership,” said DeGrofft, who has been an employee of Wildhorse for 5 years. “I think the good thing about Wildhorse is the small town ideals with a big town feel. Everybody does their part when you live in a small town, and I think the small town hospitality comes across when you visit Wildhorse.”

“It is how you treat your employees and your customers,” said Tovey. “It is all about relationships and we are fortunate that we have been able to develop those relationships over the last 20 years.”

Hundreds Gather at the Wildhorse Pow Wow Each Year

The Wildhorse Pow Wow has also been going strong for 20 years. In 1995, at the first Wildhorse Pow Wow, there were between 300 and 400 native dancers and 20 drums. The pow wow has grown and now includes 30 drums.

“The first pow wow was organized in less than four weeks,” said Tovey, “now we have a full committee that organizes it.”

In 2014 Wildhorse provided more than $80,000 in cash and prizes. A variety of food, souvenirs and Native American arts and crafts vendors are always on hand around the Pow Wow dance arena, offering everything from Indian fry bread to beadwork, clothing and jewelry. The Native American food and craft booths are free to the public.

Wildhorse Cheers for Wounded Warriors during Superbowl

Pendleton, OR – For the third consecutive year, Wildhorse Sport Bar donates funds to the Wounded Warriors Project. A total of $4262 was raised during this annual fundraiser.

Manager, Kevin Haid, teams up with Wildhorse vendors for the donation of prizes, then raffle tickets are sold at the Sports bar during the Superbowl game. Prizes like pool tables, BBQ’s, city cruiser bikes and NFL Branded merchandise were won by Fans who watched the big game at the Sports Bar.

Haid said his goal was $4000 this year, the largest amount raised at the event. Last year, just shy of $3000 was raised. “We are thrilled with the outcome,” said Haid. “Surpassing our expectations is always a great feeling, especially when it is going to a great cause like the Wounded Warriors.”

2015 marks the 20th Anniversary for Wildhorse Resort and Casino and giving back has always been a tradition of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla. While most people see and feel the effects of the funding the Wildhorse Foundation gives out annually, over $800,000 in 2014; Wildhorse specifically supports close to 1000 raffles, golf tournaments and fundraisers throughout the year with prize donations. That does not include $400,000 that is spent each year to support community events through sponsorships.

“Wildhorse does a wonderful job of giving back to the regional communities,” said Diane Long, Marketing Director for Wildhorse. “Being a good community partner is a goal for all of us at Wildhorse, not only through monetary donations and sponsorships but also through our employees volunteering, using local vendors, and events such as this one!”

Wildhorse Foundation

The Wildhorse Foundation, a community benefit fund established by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) was started in January 2001.

Over 1,300 local and regional non-profits have benefited from the over $7.5 million given by the foundation since its inception.

“We are able to give service to rural communities that would not normally have it,” said Tiah DeGrofft.

There will be close to $850,000 given away in 2015 through the foundation.

“I like to see the difference we make in the community,” said DeGrofft.

UPDATE: LATEST PRESS RELEASE

Wildhorse Foundation gives close to $935,000 to community organizations in 2014

 

Pendleton, OR – The Wildhorse Foundation, a community benefit fund established by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) to support organizations in northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington, has announced the awards for the fourth quarter of 2014. A total of $219,479.54 was awarded to 37 recipients, bringing the total for 2014 to $934,968.

Over 1475 local and regional non-profits have benefited from the funds totaling almost $8.5 million that the Foundation has distributed in their giving area since its inception in 2001.
CTUIR is committed to honoring the tribal traditions of sharing and giving back to the communities in which they live and work. The formation of Wildhorse Foundation in 2001 was for the purpose of formalizing the charitable giving on behalf of Wildhorse Resort & Casino and CTUIR.
The final quarter’s largest grant was given to Umatilla County Human Services.  The group received $16,000 to purchase office furnishings and medical supplies for Family Health Center at the new Pendleton Early Learning Center, which is currently being constructed in the old Hawthorn School building.  According to the grant application, the Pendleton School District has designed the facility to include a 600 square foot health center, however the space will be unfurnished.  The funds provided by the Wildhorse Foundation will provide necessary medical equipment and furnishing to operate the clinic.  The hope is that the equipment will provide efficiency and normalize treatment for children and families, lessening the need for treatment at a higher level of care, including emergency room visits.
Other organizations funded in the fourth quarter for 2014 are:
Organization Name
Project Title
Organization City
Organization State
Granted
Alpenfest
Marketing and purchase a trailer for storage
Joseph
OR
$2,500.00
Arc of Umatilla County
Purchase a heating system for the ARC building
Hermiston
OR
$10,000.00
Community Connection of Northeast Oregon, Inc.
Salaries and assistance with rental costs and snacks for  Kids Club
La Grande
OR
$2,200.00
Creating Memories for Disabled Children
4 steel ADA doors, vinyl windows for the entire lodge, deck, framing for doors, windows & ceilings
Enterprise
OR
$10,000.00
Divide Camp
Hot water heaters, washer dryer, propane refrigerators for cabins
Joseph
OR
$4,800.00
Domestic Violence Services
Operating support for services
Pendleton
OR
$2,500.00
Dream Catcher Therapeutics
Build and maintain a wash rack and grooming area, supplies and a sensory trail.
Pendleton
OR
$1,200.00
Eastern Oregon University
45th Annual Indian Arts Festival Spring Pow Wow & Friendship Feast
La Grande
OR
$2,000.00
Elgin Chamber of Commerce
Four heavy duty commercial garbage cans and five Home of the Huskies pole banners and hardware to secure the items
Elgin
OR
$2,970.00
Elgin High School
Purchase a retractable flag for the gymnasium.
Elgin
OR
$2,800.00
Freewater Elementary School
iPads for 1st Grade and Kindergarten
Milton-Freewater
OR
$7,500.00
Friends of Children of Walla Walla
Funds to be used to directly fund the recruitment, screening, training and ongoing support of volunteers in two programs, Community Based and ABC (Adults Befriending Children)
Walla Walla
WA
$2,500.00
Friends of the Union County Fair Foundation
Update the sheep stalling area and install new stall panel system
La Grande
OR
$7,500.00
Good Shepherd Health Care System
$6,000 for project support for supplemental wages; $5,000 for operations-fuel, insurance mobile communications and vehicle maintenance.
$1,000 capital expense-cost for a computer scheduling software package
Hermiston
OR
$6,000.00
Helix School District
Help defray expense for lifting racks; weight bars, plates, treadmills, mirrors and machine weights for the High School
Helix
OR
$10,000.00
Imbler Rural Fire Protection District
Purchase 5 sets of turnouts for newer firefighters.
Imbler
OR
$5,000.00
Maryhill Museum of Art
$6,000 for funding to bring the Museum of Glass Mobile Hot Shop to Museum for May Museum week.
$2,300 is for bus funding to bring Morrow County students to May Museum week.
Goldendale
WA
$2,300.00
Milton-Freewater Pioneer Posse
Replace perimeter fence
Milton-Freewater
OR
$2,500.00
Milton-Freewater Unified School District
Purchase a video camera to record middle school and High School soccer games so the coach can watch and analyze
Milton-Freewater
OR
$1,000.00
Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation
Mobile Health Screening Program
Portland
OR
$6,000.00
Oregon Rural Action
Funds for SolWest Fair.  Expanding education and communication plan.
La Grande
OR
$1,000.00
Pilot Rock Downtown Association
Purchase a concession trailer
Pilot Rock
OR
$10,000.00
Rocky Heights Elementary
1 iPad Air 16 GB, 2 iPad Air 32 GB, and 62 iPad mini2.
Hermiston
OR
$7,500.00
Safe Harbors Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims Services
Purchase conference room furniture: two laptop computers, two desks, two chairs, and purchase promotional supplies (brochures, pens, etc.) and related literature
Enterprise
OR
$2,950.00
St. Mary’s Outreach
Funds to be used to buy groceries for the poor.
Pendleton
OR
$8,000.00
Stanfield Secondary School
Update weight room
Stanfield
OR
$10,500.00
Training & Employment Consortium
Funding to cover cost of instructor for 18 hours a week, pre-GED testing, GED testing and general supplies.
La Grande
OR
$3,840.00
Umatilla County Human Services
Office furnishings and medical supplies for Family Health Center at the Pendleton Early Learning Center
Pendleton
OR
$16,000.00
Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office
Purchase Tasers and Accessories
Pendleton
OR
$10,000.00
Umatilla County Soil and Water Conservation District
Watershed Field Days and Inventory Trailer
Pendleton
OR
$5,000.00
Umatilla Tribal Fire Department
Purchase four rolling racks, specifically designed to hold personal protective equipment.
Pendleton
OR
$14,505.00
United Way of Umatilla & Morrow Counties
Purchase a high quality all-in-one printer/copier/scanner/fax and 1 years’ worth of ink cartridges
Pendleton
OR
$4,914.54
Walla Walla 2020
Site Grading and Construction of a Small Parking Area and Path to the Interpretive Shelter to be Constructed by the Department of Corrections and Installed by Walla Walla 2020 with Funds Raised From Other Sources.  (Interpretive Shelter at Wallula Gap
Walla Walla
WA
$5,000.00
Walla Walla Council on Child Abuse
Ride Against Child Abuse’ College Rodeo.  Funds to be used to purchase a Tractor
Walla Walla
WA
$7,500.00
Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretive Center, Inc.
Improving electrical distribution, cleaning up potable water access points and installing permanent heating for showers
Wallowa
OR
$8,000.00
Wallowa County Project Heartbeat
Defibrillators for the community
Joseph
OR
$6,000.00
West Hills Intermediate School
Funding for 30 Chromebooks for third grade classroom
Pendleton
OR
$7,500.00
$219,479.54
The Wildhorse Foundation Board will consider awarding grants to applications that cover the areas of public health and safety, education, the arts, historic preservation, gambling addiction services, salmon restoration, environmental protection, and cultural activities.
The quarterly deadlines for requests are January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1.  For more information on Wildhorse Foundation guidelines or to receive an application, visithttp://www.wildhorseresort.com/ and click on “Foundation.”

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Today, the three tribes (Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla) of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have an enrollment of nearly 3,000 members.

“We have a stable government,” said Tovey. “Our leadership is very stable.”

According to Tovey the biggest challenges the tribe has had to face is figuring out how to keep their identity as the world changes. “We hold our culture in high regards. How to respect that and live in a new world, and how to survive in two different worlds has been the biggest challenge.”

Language art classes through the tribe as well as their root digging festival and beading classes are ways that will help the younger generation of the tribe not lose what the elders have.

Wildhorse Timeline

March 9, 1995 the first permanent facility opened.

Progress continued on the bare land at the base of the Blue Mountains and in 1996 the first expansion was complete. It included a hotel and indoor swimming pool. Then in 1997 the 100 space RV Park and outdoor pool were added. An 18-hole Championship golf course was created as well.

In 2002 another expansion took place by expanding the table games to include roulette and craps, making Wildhorse a full Vegas-style casino. The expansion also added a video game parlor and a child’s entertainment center. Then, by 2005, a conference center was added and included Cayuse Hall, The Walla Walla Room and the Umatilla Boardroom.

In 2007 Wildhorse opened Traditions Buffet, Plateau Fine Dining and the Wildhorse Sports Bar, which allowed for live entertainment four nights a week. The $1.5 million expansion also added a second non-smoking slots floor, bringing the total number of slots to just over 800 of which 25% are in non-smoking rooms.

The 2011 expansion was the largest expansion to date totaling over $45 million. The expansion added a 10-story Tower Hotel, which includes 202 hotel rooms, three new meeting spaces, a fitness area, retail space, and 3,500 square feet, which allows for up to 1400 slot machines and a five theater Cineplex. Next to the Cineplex a new child entertainment center and expanded arcade were added for the enjoyment of the younger guests.

About Wildhorse Resort and Casino:

Centrally situated between Boise, Spokane and Portland, Wildhorse Resort & Casino is a premier destination for family getaways, business meetings and large conventions.

The Resort features a 24-hour casino, hotel, RV Park, 7 restaurants, 5-screen Cineplex, 18-hole championship golf course, travel plaza and tribal museum. Expanded in 2011, there is no destination experience like it in the Pacific Northwest. Wildhorse boosts over 1200 slots, all your favorite table games, keno, bingo and live entertainment Wednesday-Friday in our sports bar.

Wildhorse is located just off I-84 at exit 216, four miles east of Pendleton, OR. Wildhorse is owned and operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.