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Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino opens tonight

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Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2009 11:00 pm

Tonight at 9 p.m., Oct. 30, the wait is over as the new Las Vegas-style Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino opens its doors to the public on the Gila River Indian Community near Ahwatukee Foothills.

The 242-room hotel features 39 suites, conference facilities, a pool and health club. The 100,000-square-foot casino sports more than 1,000 slot machines, 71 table games, a high limit area, dedicated non-smoking areas, 12,000 square feet of meeting room space, five lounges, a night club, retail shops and an 800-space parking garage. The $200 million project is located just off Interstate 10 and Wild Horse Pass Boulevard.

“We are proud that the Gila River Indian Community has let us create such a tremendous facility here,” said Harold Baugus, chief executive officer of Gila River Gaming Enterprises, Inc. and an Ahwatukee Foothills resident.

He said the company is not worried about opening in a bad economy, when gaming is down even in Las Vegas.

“We started this project in August of 2005 (before the turn in the economy) and we have a long-term vision for the community,” Baugus explained. “We are offering a full entertainment package, not just gaming, and we are offering value to our guests and we feel good about that.”

He noted that while gaming is down even in Vegas, the entertainment there is still selling out and with a long list of high-profile acts, Wild Horse Pass hopes to do the same.

Those acts will appear in the new 1,400-seat Ovations Live! theater.

“There is not a bad seat in the house and you don’t need your binoculars,” noted Arlene Alleman, corporate director of marketing for Gila River Gaming Enterprises, Inc. She too is a resident of Ahwatukee Foothills.

As part of a month-long grand opening during November, LeAnn Rimes will appear in concert at Ovations Live! on Nov. 7 and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno is scheduled to perform at 9 p.m. Nov. 20. Ticket prices start at $75 and go up to $150 for VIP seating. Players Club members get $10 off and anyone can purchase tickets at the Wild Horse Pass Casino gift shop or at ticketforce.com.

According to Baugus, the casino plans on showcasing one to two major acts each month and added that all shows were selling out in the old venue earlier this year.

“We are already getting calls and there is a level of excitement for the overall entertainment we will be offering,” he said. “We are offering a full entertainment package and value for our guests.”

That entertainment includes “the only nightclub in Chandler.”

“So we are already offering local guests something they couldn’t get here unless they go to Vegas,” Baugus said.

According to Alleman, Wild Horse Pass employees have spent the week sampling everything the hotel and casino has to offer, from all food in the restaurants to a full-night’s stay in the hotel rooms. The goal is to not only be sure that everything is in top-notch working order, but to familiarize staff with all aspects of the new facility.

“That way we can answer questions for our guests,” Alleman said, adding that one of the highlights in the casino is the “center bar” with wrap-around TV screens.

“There is not a bad seat in the house for football and other things going on because you can see the TVs as you gamble.”

Two highlight eateries at the new casino include Shula’s All American Steak House and Ling & Louie’s Asian Bar and Grill.

“This is only the second Ling & Louie’s in Arizona, the other is in Scottsdale,” Alleman said.

Shula’s will be the first location on the West Coast. Themed after legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, wait staff pass off real hand-painted NFL footballs that display the exclusive menu. The restaurant officially opens Nov. 17 with a visit from “Coach” himself.

A complete food court offers Fatburger, Tamales, Famiglia Pizzeria, Dreyer’s, Cafe 27-7, Starbucks coffee and more.

For more information or to make hotel reservations, visit www.wingilariver.com or call 1-800-WIN-GILA.

“We want to take care of our guests and we are extremely excited to be able to offer such an exciting place for people to come and enjoy themselves,” Baugus said. “We believe this is going to become a destination area.”

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