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Casino 'not off the table' for Greyhound Park, tribe says

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Elected officials watch Tuesday as workers from Konell Construction and Demolition hold a ceremonial demolition of the former Multnomah Greyhound Park in Wood Village.Could Multnomah Greyhound Park become the site of Oregon’s newest casino? That’s “not off the table,” according to tribal leaders.

Speaking beneath a banner reading “Spirit Mountain at Wood Village,” Grand Ronde Council Chairman Reyn Leno said plans for the defunct racetrack are still in flux.

“There’s a lot of hurdles for (gaming),” Leno said.

If the tribe took that route, “We could be standing here for many years on flat ground, without building anything” he explained, pointing toward the overgrown fields where racing dogs once dashed for the amusement of thousands.

But Bill Peterson, Wood Village’s city manager, was more certain of the outcome.

“Gaming will be a part of their entertainment here, but at what level is a whole different question, and I don’t know the answer to that,” he said.

“We have a really positive relationship with the tribe, but they have to be treated like any other builder or developer,” he continued.

The tribe would need approval from the federal government and the National Indian Gaming Commission to build a Class III casino. They’d also need to change a current Oregon policy that limits each tribe to one casino, which must be located on reservation land.

Until then, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde will have to be satisfied with Spirit Mountain Casino, which at 80 miles to the southwest is still the closest casino to the East County.

The tribe has lobbied long and hard to keep it that way. In 2012, the Grand Ronde spent almost $1 million advocating against two ballot measures that would have allowed a privately-owned casino to be built at the track. The measures failed.

Grand Ronde lawyers sued the Cowlitz Tribe last year in order to head off that tribe’s plan to build a casino in La Center, Wash. La Center is roughly 30 minutes north of Portland.

“We’re not going to kill our own casino,” Leno said at the gathering. “We’ve got a lot more invested at Spirit Mountain than we do here.”

New visions, old land

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Tribal Council members perform a traditional song Tuesday at a ceremony marking the demolition of the former Multnomah Greyhound Park.The tribe won’t say exactly what they plan to build on the site, but they’ve stated that the location will include both “family friendly” and “adult” entertainment.

For families, that could mean anything from a water park to a bowling alley, video arcade or movie theatre. In terms of “adult” fun, Leno floated the idea of building a brewery.

Either way, tribal leaders are fairly confident tourists will need somewhere to eat and sleep. They say an upscale restaurant and hotel will anchor the site. There’s even been some talk of building mixed-use retail and housing.

Patricia Smith, Wood Village’s mayor, said she didn’t believe the tribe would build a casino in her city. But she said she wasn’t against the idea either.

“Whatever the tribe does will be profitable, because they’re not in the business of losing money,” Smith said. “Most people want to see it become some sort of family entertainment place… As long as they get rid of that ugly building, I’ll be fine.”

The new site has a number of tempting features, notes Leno. It’s close to Interstate 84 and might appeal to visitors who don’t want to stay in downtown Portland.

Ramblin’ gamblin’ memories

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Bob Wonsley (left) shows off framed memorabilia from the May day in 1985 when he won $800 betting on the dogs at the Multnomah Kennel Club, as it was known at that time.First opened in 1957, for years Multnomah Greyhound Park was the premier gambling destination for locals. At its peak in 1987, the stadium reported more than 600,000 annual spectators.

Those days are long past. The park has sat empty since 2004, attracting only dust and vagrants.

About 200 people gathered this Tuesday, June 28, to watch the ceremonial start to the demolition. After an invocation and tribal drum song, former workers and visitors reminisced about the time spent (and money lost) at the iconic venue.

Rocky Willy started working as a night-shift groom at the track the year it opened. His job was to parade the No. 1 dog to the bleachers full of betting fans.

“People would call out, ‘Just give me one winner.’ And I said, ‘If I knew who was coming in, I would own this place!” he said.

Shelly Flitcraft, a patron of the park, recalled sneaking in when she was just 16 — too young to legally gamble in Oregon.

“My mom would never know I was betting” she recalled. “I’m crushed to see it gone, because of the childhood memories. But it’s been abandoned a long time, and hopefully something good will come of it.”

In the background, a fully-extended hydraulic excavator daintily smashed several third-story windows with its bucket. Inside the building, other earth movers were busy tearing out the floor.

The real demolition will take place outside the public’s eye, and should be completed within the next six weeks.