Pala Casino Spa & Resort broke ground last week on a new $170 million expansion project that will add a new hotel tower, renovate the properties existing hotel and add a host of new amenities.

“Our ability to exponentially expand and refresh [the casino] is a true testament to, not only the growth of Pala, but also to the thriving economy and the continued strength of the gaming industry in California," said Pala Band of Mission Indians Chairman Robert Smith at the groundbreaking ceremony held October 17 in front of the casino's resort pool.

The expansion includes a new 348-room hotel tower, to be built just north of the existing tower’s main entrance, as well as a complete remodel of the resort’s existing hotel. When the project is complete, Pala will have a total of 853 rooms including 104 unique suites and 749 deluxe rooms. The hotel parking structure will also be expanded by adding 420 spaces.

Klai Juba Wald of Las Vegas is the architect for the project, while San Francisco-based Level 10 Construction is serving as the contractor.

Construction on the AAA Four Diamond resort property will be built in three phases. Phase I began last week and will complete next summer. It includes the expansion of the hotel parking structure; a new resort pool complex, with four pools, two whirlpools, a new poolside bar, a new poolside restaurant and various outdoor lounge spaces. This project segment will also include spa upgrades and the expansion of the main casino by 12,000 sq-ft, with the addition of several new table games and a new casino bar and lounge.

The interior of the entire 100,000-sq-ft casino will also be remodeled, and Pala’s food promenade will be converted into a restaurant complex offering a wide variety of food options in a variety of settings.

Phase II of the project will run June 2018 - May 2019 and will feature the total remodel of the existing 507-room hotel tower. Phase III will see the construction of the new room hotel tower between June 2018 and December 2019.     

Bill Bembenek, Pala CEO, told me the project will face interesting construction challenges due to the fact that Pala has a high-volume hotel and minimizing disruption to existing clientele will be imperative. "Hence, we are completing the expansion of hotel parking structure before we even start construction on the new tower to ensure that guests can conveniently access the hotel lobby throughout the duration of the project," says Bembenek.

Project officials say the project will create 400 construction jobs and add more than 200 positions to Pala’s current team of 2,000 employees. Pala Casino Spa & Resort is located about 50 miles north of San Diego.