WORLEY - While Charlotte Nilson loves the open feeling and the space at the expanded Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort Hotel, it's the natural aesthetics that most caught her eye.
"We're beautiful inside and out," the tribal council member said Monday following the grand opening ceremony to celebrate the $75 million project.
Plenty of praise and thanks were given out during the hourlong event attended by about 200 people, including community, business and government leaders.
All shared similar sentiments that the success of the expansion was a testament to the tribe's history and its continued influence in the region.
"We have established ourselves in the world of business," said tribal elder Cliff SiJohn. "This is no small feat."
Following a year of design and two years of construction, the expansion adds 98 new hotel rooms, bringing it to 300. It also added casino space, a pub, new dining room, and a "front yard" that will offer two amphitheaters. The resort now employs nearly 1,200.
It creates a destination resort, said Dave LaSarte-Meeks, chief executive officer, sure to draw guests from throughout the nation.
Key was to be different, highlighted by detailed artwork and original photography featured in rooms and throughout the resort. Details mattered.
"We did not want to be just another Indian casino," he said.
Chief Allan, chairman of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, said the cost of the project was a bit frightening when first considered.
"I'd be lying to myself if I said I wasn't scared," he said.
The Tribe had two choices: Sit and be content with what it had, or push ahead.
It chose the latter.
"The Coeur d'Alene Tribe always moves forward," he said with a smile.
Today, the Tribe has an economic impact in the state of more than $300 million and is one of North Idaho's largest employers as it continues to focus on job creation and economic opportunities.
Tribal councilman Ernie Stensgar said the Tribe has met many challenges head-on in its history, and fought for its very survival.
It had to overcome military conflicts, and the destruction of its culture and its language.
"Our people persevered over the last century," he said. "We survived."
Today, tribal leaders continue to pursue their ancestors' dream of independence, strength and prosperity.
The casino/resort expansion - with an emphasis on environmental awareness - is a sign of their dedication to achieving their goals.
"Today we are adding another chapter to our success story," Stensgar said.
Those who attended the ceremony marked by drum music and song roared when tribal elder Pearl Perry took the honorary role to cut the red ribbon with giant scissors to officially mark the grand opening.
"It's amazing what the Coeur d'Alene Tribe has done in less than 20 years since they opened up a bingo hall down here," said Rep. Bob Nonini. "The economic impact to the region is what's so exciting for all of us in northern Idaho and the whole state."
Todd Christianson, executive director of the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce, said the project is another sign of the Tribe's commitment to the area.
"As we look at what's happening within our region, the growth and job recreation that's taking place, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe is at the forefront of that."