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Wednesday, May 05, 2004 - Page updated at 11:29 A.M.

Stillaguamish start to build on tribal land but eye busier location near Smokey Point

By Emily Heffter
Times Snohomish County bureau

DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Eddie Goodridge Jr., the executive director of the Stillaguamish Tribe, stands on the site of a planned 25,000-square-foot casino off 35th Avenue Northeast north of Arlington.
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ARLINGTON — As construction workers haul away trees and chunks of concrete to make way for a casino on Stillaguamish tribal land north of Arlington, the tribe is working to negotiate what it hopes to be a busier location near Smokey Point.

The 25,000-square-foot casino off 35th Avenue Northeast is temporary, said Stillaguamish Tribe Executive Director Eddie Goodridge Jr. In fact, it will be a modular type of building so the tribe can sell it off in pieces if it decides to move.

"We're not trying to be a destination resort," Goodridge said. "If that's going to happen, it's going to be down at Smokey Point, if I can get the governor and them to go along with it."

As it is, Goodridge believes the casino still will attract customers, especially people who want to play electronic slot machines.

Neighbors oppose the rural residential location because of concerns about noise, traffic and crime. Goodridge said the tribe is looking at land closer to Interstate 5 but can't build on any new property until it is placed in federal trust status, at least a two-year process that requires the cooperation of the Governor's Office and local jurisdictions.

Construction on the casino started last week despite protests from neighbors and state and local politicians. The tribe had expected to build the casino more than a year ago, but its previous financier backed out after declining to submit to state background checks.

Now the tribe says the new casino, financed by a $19 million loan from Minneapolis-based Marshall Bank, will open in October. The casino is a scaled-down version of an earlier plan for a $36 million, 32,000-square-foot facility.

Goodridge said the tribe has offered the city of Arlington a portion of casino proceeds in exchange for the city's support of a casino inside its boundaries.

Goodridge wouldn't reveal how much but said "it'd make us the highest-paying tribe in the state."

Arlington City Manager Kristin Banfield said she had never heard about that offer but said it may have been made to the mayor, who couldn't be reached for comment.
 
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A contingent of tribal members opposing the casino has been quiet, and a neighborhood group, No Dice, is basically out of options, said its spokesman, Ken Childress.

He said that the group is glad the casino will be smaller than originally planned but that neighbors still don't want it and recently put a gate up at the entrance to their subdivision.

Meanwhile, Goodridge, 28, feels free to go ahead with his plans for the tribe. At the construction site this week, he said the dump trucks and bulldozers proved he had won a battle with the dissenters.

He waved his arms at the construction and swore.

"Well ... here it is," he said.

Emily Heffter: 425-783-0624 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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