Proposed entertainment center will be union-built

Labor leaders from 18 unions affiliated with the Columbia-Pacific Building Trades Council signed a project labor agreement April 19 with backers of a proposed casino, hotel and entertainment center at the defunct Multnomah Kennel Club in Wood Village east of Portland.

“They’ve got a big hill to climb (to make it happen), but we think it’s a good idea,” John Mohlis, executive secretary-treasurer of the building trades council, told the Northwest Labor Press. “Job creation is one of the most important issues facing Oregon right now. This is a significant agreement and it represents good faith and goodwill from its backers.”

Financial consultant Bruce Studer and lawyer Matt Rossman of Lake Oswego are trying to secure two ballot measures that, if approved by Oregon voters, would allow for a single casino on nontribal land.

But the project is much more than that. At the ceremonial signing of the project labor agreement, Studer and Rossman said the proposed $450 million facility would be a “world-class entertainment center” that would include a luxury hotel, fine restaurants, a spa, shopping, a movie cinema, live theater venues for local, national and international stars, a bowling alley and water park.

The men have formed the Good For Oregon Committee and have filed initiative petitions to 1) repeal a constitutional ban on nontribal casinos and, 2) direct the Legislature to authorize a single gaming facility at the dog track.

At press time, the state had yet to approve ballot titles for any of the petitions on file. If and when approval is granted the men will immediately begin collecting signatures. They will need more than 100,000 registered voter signatures by July 7 in order to get the measures on the November ballot.

Rossman said their research shows Oregonians would support a gaming center at the dog track. If successful at the polls, construction would most likely begin in January 2007, with a goal of opening the first of two phases of the center by August 2007.

“This would be one of the largest construction projects in Oregon’s history, putting to work more than 3,000 men and women” in the construction industry, said Rossman, who is the chief petitioner on the initiatives.

Rossman said a study conducted by Johnson & Gardner said the restoration project would create 3,145 construction jobs, 3,563 permanent jobs, plus an addition 4,500 indirect jobs.

“These would all be local, family-wage jobs,” Mohlis said. “The contractors on this project would all have training programs and would be part of helping train the construction workforce of the future.”

“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” added Studer. “We’re building a world-class resort and we’re doing it with Oregon’s highest-skilled workers.”

In addition to the family-wage jobs, Studer and Rossman have written into one of the initiatives the creation of an Oregon Gaming Commission, in which the casino would be authorized to contribute 25 percent of its adjusted gross revenues each year.

The Web site estimates potential annual donations of $197 million once the complex is fully operational. It shows Portland School District potentially receiving $20 million a year; and Reynolds and Gresham-Barlow school districts each potentially getting $5 million year.

Rossman said no taxpayer dollars will be used toward the development, operation or regulation of the facility. In fact, the facility expects to pay its full share of taxes in addition to the 25 percent for schools and other services.