Tribal members perform before the groundbreaking. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Tribal Chairman Cody Martinez (left) as tribal members perform a sacred ceremonial song before the groundbreaking. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The Sycuan Tribal Council officially broke ground Tuesday on an 12-story hotel and casino expansion at its East County reservation.

The $226 million development will include a 300-room hotel, a 11,400-square-foot ballroom and 60,000 more feet of gaming space. Also planned are a pool with a lazy river, a separate pool for adults, a 1 1/2-acre garden, and new restaurants and bars.

A rendering of the Sycuan Casino expansion.

Tribal Chairman Cody Martinez said the expansion marks “a new chapter in the rich history of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Indians…We are taking Sycuan to the next level.”

As hundreds watched the groundbreaking ceremony, Martinez reflected that the Sycuan band entered the casino business more than 30 years ago to provide jobs and improve life on the reservation.

“We wanted to put asphalt on our streets, which were dirt,” he said. “We wanted to put braces in our children’s mouths.”

Supervisor Diane Jacob thanked the tribe for improving the nearby roads and for its extensive philanthropic efforts, and called the groundbreaking “a great day” for San Diego.

The enlarged gaming space will accommodate nearly 3,000 slot machines and 80 game tables. The project is expected to be completed in 2019.

“The Southern California gaming experience is one that you can stay overnight at a property,” Martinez said. “It’s not just about gaming, it’s about entertainment, it’s about experience.”

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.