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Thunder Valley axes top execs, replaces with Station Casinos

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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The top-four executives at Thunder Valley Casino were terminated Feb. 5 and the chief executive officer was placed on administrative leave, according to Doug Elmets, spokesman for the United Auburn Indian Community, which runs Thunder Valley. Temporary day-to-day management of casino operations will be taken over by Station Casinos, the tribe’s longtime business partner, which has advised and consulted on operational and development issues since 2003, Elmets said. Elmets confirmed that the general manager, vice president for finance, vice president for operations and vice president for marketing were all released. He declined to elaborate, adding, “We don’t go into personnel matters.” Richard St. Jean will serve as the interim general manager, Station Casinos spokeswoman Lori Nelson said, adding that he has more than 20 years’ experience in the gaming industry, 14 of which have been with Station Casinos. “Our company has been around over 30 years,” Nelson said, “and we have a terrific relationship with Thunder Valley and the United Auburn Indian Community.” Station Casinos holds 11 hotel/casino properties and seven casino-only properties in Southern Nevada, Nelson said. Additionally, the company is in partnership with four other tribes, none of whose projects are past development stages at this point. The change was sparked by the current economic downturn and the reassessment of the scope of the Thunder Valley expansion project, Elmets said, adding that there was a “need to engage a seasoned team of managers who have dealt with similar challenges.” The construction of the casino expansion, which includes a multistory hotel, parking garage and performing arts center, will restart this spring, according to Elmets. Project completion is still scheduled for 2010. “We’ll make a more significant announcement about the restarting of the construction of the casino (expansion) in the coming weeks,” Elmets said. The expansion project was put on hold Nov. 23, according to previous news reports. The plans for expansion originally included a 23-story hotel with 650 rooms, a performing-arts center seating 3,000 and a nine-story, “smart” parking structure that would accommodate 5,000 cars. “I think (restarting the expansion) is a good thing,” said Al Holland, who owns Lincoln City Barber Shop. “Anything we can do to bring jobs and people and that sort of thing is good.” Lincoln resident John Delvillar concurred. “They’re going to have a hotel so people can stay there instead of getting on a bus and staying for just a couple of hours or whatever they do now,” Delvillar said, adding that it will be nice to see the buildings completed. “It’ll bring jobs to the county, too,” Delvillar said. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com