Hotel at ilani opens its doors


The once-empty tower of blue glass off of Interstate 5 is now officially occupied after the Cowlitz Indian Tribe celebrated the opening of the ilani Hotel on Monday, April 24.

Amid a crowd of tribal members and those involved with the project, dignitaries cut the ribbon in front of a 130-foot corridor that connects the existing casino floor to the hotel. Almost two years prior to the day, many of the same people gathered for the official groundbreaking on what would become the nearly 300-room, 14-story building.

Cowlitz Spiritual Leader Tanna Engdahl said the hotel is an extension of the tribe’s community upward. In earlier times, when a village grew large, some families would make their way to a new site to live.

“Now we have moved our new site into the skies,” Engdahl said.

She said the passage connecting the existing ilani building to the hotel is a “tunnel of time.” The corridor features hand-selected items from the tribe’s collection of historical artifacts and items created specifically for the space, a release from ilani stated. A light fixture featuring a number of hand-carved canoe panels illuminates the hallway, while video displays along the walls show teachings and footage of the homelands of the tribe.

Mohegan Sun Director of Program Management Paul Tresnan said his team worked closely with tribal members to design the corridor.

“What we were looking to do from a construction perspective was to make the love that these people feel for their tribe come to life within an 130-foot walk between the casino and the hotel,” Tresnan said.

Among the nearly 300 rooms are 28 suites that span in size up to 1,600 square feet, the release stated. The hotel also features an indoor pool with a retractable wall allowing for outdoor lounging, a lobby cafe, a fitness center and a top-floor restaurant with views out onto the Clark County landscape.

The hotel will open a spa once the right partner to provide the amenity is found, ilani President and General Manager Kara Fox-LaRose said.

The hotel also offers Kids Quest, an hourly-rate child care service so youth have something to do while the adults take part in ilani’s offerings for older guests.

Cowlitz Indian Tribe General Council Chairwoman Patty Kinswa-Gaiser said the hotel’s opening is a landmark achievement for the tribe.

“While we celebrate the ilani Hotel opening as a symbol of profound progress, today is just the beginning of an increasingly bright future,” Kinswa-Gaiser said in the release.

The latest expansion of ilani isn’t strictly a boon for the tribe. Ridgefield Mayor Jennifer Lindsay said the success of ilani has created ripples that bring significant economic impacts to Clark County.

Lindsay said the Cowlitz Tribe has proactively reached out to Ridgefield for “stay and play” opportunities that feature the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge or Ridgefield Raptors games.

“As much as the city is anticipating the economic benefits, none of those would be occurring without the completion of this amazing, first-class hotel,” she said. “A hotel of this caliber simply does not exist in our area, making it a much-needed amenity.”