Eventful expansion: Spokane Tribe to open new event space
West Plains venue to be latest in spate of new spaces in INWAugust 17th, 2023
The Spokane Tribe of Indians plans to open its Spokane Live multipurpose events center late next month, adding to the rapid expansion of entertainment venues in the region in recent years.
The 27,000-square-foot indoor venue is the latest addition to the casino complex at 14300 W. U.S. 2, just west of the Airway Heights city limits and just under 2 miles east of Fairchild Air Force Bases’s main gates. Spokane Live also will connect to a planned outdoor concert venue that is expected to open next summer.
Casino representatives decline to disclose the project cost.
Mark Losh, CEO of the West Plains Chamber of Commerce, lauds the expansion, saying, “It creates economic boom whenever something new comes to our area.”
Gary Thayer, director of entertainment for the casino, says the Tribe plans to announce its first shows for the new venue on Monday, Aug. 28.
“We already have a show set for Oct. 5,” he says. “We’re trying for a Sept. 30 show for a grand opening.”
In all, Spokane Live has about 10 concerts lined up so far, which Thayer says will benefit other businesses in the West Plains area.
“It’s definitely going to increase revenue in the area, especially food and beverage with people on their way to and from the concerts,” he says.
Part of the casino’s ongoing expansion, the new venue will hold concerts, mixed martial arts and boxing matches, bingo events, Spokane Tribe powwows, conventions, and a variety of other events, Thayer says.
Chris Marzotto, the casino’s director of marketing, says, “We definitely expect a big increase in our customers here.”
The West Plains isn’t a stranger to large casino-based event venues, of course, with Northern Quest Resort & Casino 3 1/2 miles away.
“It’s always great for business when we have diversity and more options,” says Losh. “They’re both unique casinos, they’re a little bit different, and they both have a wonderful place in the West Plains and are wonderful to the community.”
Spokane Live is one of several new event venues expected to bring in more tourism spending to Spokane County and more revenue to local businesses.
As reported in the Journal, construction began in March on the 59,000-square-foot Idaho Central Spokane Valley Performing Arts Center. In Spokane’s North Bank neighborhood, the 5,000-seat One Spokane Stadium is expected to be completed in September.
Also in the North Bank neighborhood, The Podium Powered by STCU, a 135,000-square-foot athletic facility, underwent upgrades last year that allow for the space to be used for concerts that support a general admission audience of 3,000 to 5,000 people, the Journal has reported.
And while the U.S. Pavilion has been in Riverfront Park for almost 50 years, a remodel of the iconic Spokane attraction has converted it into a concert venue.
Spokane saw $1.42 billion in visitor spending in 2022, up from $1.22 billion in 2021, according to Visit Spokane, the official destination marketing organization for the city. The $1.42 billion figure narrowly tops the pre-pandemic visitor spending in 2019 of $1.39 billion.
In addition to Spokane Live, the Spokane Tribe Casino expansion also includes a recently opened smoke-free gaming section; a five-floor, 176-room hotel expected to open in January next year; and an expanded gaming floor just outside of the Spokane Live entrance that will feature about 200 more games, bringing the casino’s total to 910 games, Marzotto says.
The expanded gaming floor will open at the same time as Spokane Live. Two quick-service restaurants will also open in that area.
Once the entire expansion is complete, Spokane Tribe Casino is expected to increase its employee count to over 500, Marzotto says. The casino currently has about 300 employees, he says.
“When the hotel is done next year, it’s going to have even more of an impact to bring even more potential business,” Losh says. “It’s going to create more income for the region and more opportunities for people who live in the West Plains to work in the West Plains.”
As previously reported by the Journal, the tribe’s casino is the first phase of a projected $400 million Spokane Tribe Economic Project. In 2013, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in its final Environmental Impact Statement, said the Spokane Tribe Economic Project could create up to 5,000 construction-related and permanent jobs in Spokane County.
Equipped with a wood floor, brick-lined walls, multiple 9-foot by 16-foot video screens, an attached bar and large commercial kitchen, and a balcony wrapping around the entire event space, Spokane Live has a maximum seating capacity of 3,400.
The seating and standing-room arrangements are flexible, allowing the rentable venue to meet the needs of event organizers, Thayer says.
On the east side of the Spokane Live venue, several bay-style doors are positioned on both the main and balcony levels that can be rolled open to connect the venue with patio and parking lot areas for indoor-outdoor events, Thayer says.
“It opens to the parking lots where we could do chili cook-offs, beer fests, food trucks,” Thayer says.
The parking lot space connected to the east side of Spokane Live was intentionally designed without any islands or barriers so it can be used as the “festival-style outdoor concert venue,” Thayer says.
Because it’s still in the design phase, the square footage of that space is yet to be determined, however Thayer says the space will provide lots of flexibility.
“If it’s successful, we could keep pushing the stage back,” Thayer says. “There’s plenty of room.”
The indoor balcony also extends to the outside, overlooking the planned outdoor venue. The balcony area may be used for some VIP spaces, Thayer says.
“(Spokane Live) allows us to finally have the space to do VIP events and stuff like that,” says Marzotto. “Before, we were just shutting down Three Peaks restaurant.”
To supplement the casino’s expansion, about 1,500 more parking spaces are being added, Thayer says.
“The key for the tribe was to add more amenities,” he says. “This is going to drive more traffic.”
As for future plans, Marzotto says there are talks of adding an RV park and a large parking structure, but those are still in the idea phase.