With State Legislature Approval of Elk Grove Casino Compact - The Only Missing Link is The Truck Stop & Gas Station

September 5, 2017 | One of the great advantages of hitting the open road is getting a new perspective on things in your community. A ...

September 5, 2017 |

One of the great advantages of hitting the open road is getting a new perspective on things in your community. A recent road trip we took was no exception.

Traveling Interstate 40 from its western start and terminus in Barstow, Calif. to Albuquerque was an enjoyable journey. Although we have taken the route numerous times, it has been over 25 years since we had the opportunity to trek during the daylight hours.

Traveling this segment of I-40 twice during daylight hours in a six-day period you are reminded of several things, but some revelations stand out. 

The first is the vastness of the land, particularly the segment between Flagstaff, Ariz. and Gallup, NM. Travelers are reminded why Europeans, Germans in particular, are fascinated with the American Southwest. You can literally look for miles in any direction without obstruction.

While the views are unparalleled, there was another new, man-made feature more prevalent now than in the late 80's and early 90's. That feature was, of course, the explosion of Indian casinos, some of which were located miles from any significant population centers.

While we counted at least seven casinos along this segment, there was one that stood out. That was the Route 66 Casino on the western outskirts of Albuquerque. 

The casino offered us a perspective on the 36-acre Wilton Rancheria in Elk Grove. 

According to calculations on Google Maps, the Route 66 Casino, which is located on historic tribal land, occupies about 71-acres. The casino has 1,700 slot machines, three-quarters of what the Elk Grove casino is approved for, and the hotel has 154 rooms.

Aside from the size of the casino which is about half of the 400 rooms and 2,500 slots planned for Elk Grove casino, the land used for the Route 66 Casino facility is about twice the size of the 36-acres in the Wilton Rancheria. This difference is the Route 66 has a large gas station and truck stop as part of its operation.

In fact, every casino on this segment of I-40 had an auto and trucking fueling operation of varying sizes, even if did not offer lodging. Given the location along a major east-west Interstate, the fueling operation seemed to be a good add on for travelers. Offer competitively priced gas as an inducement to visit the big money makers, the slots, and tables.

As it relates to the Elk Grove operation, the 36-acre parcel seems small by comparison. With another 64-acres directly accessible, could the Wilton Rancheria have acquisition of the rest of the parcel for expansion in their long-range plans?

Although Highway 99 does not have the interstate traffic that I-40 can claim, there is ample truck traffic. Furthermore, there are few truck stops along Highway 99 and adding a fueling operation could bring another source of clients to the crap tables and slots.

Additionally, does the 64-acres of the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove even appear on the radar of its owner, the Howard Hughes Company, not to mention the general weakness in the brick and mortar retail segment? While riding through this segment of I-40, we also listened to Las Vegas NPR affiliate, KNPR.

One the sponsors frequently mentioned was the Howard Hughes Corporation. In the sponsorship message, listeners were reminded of HHC's 22,500-acre Summerlin master-planned community. 

Given that Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly freely admitted he cannot even schedule a meeting with HHC officials, it seems obvious this development is peanuts given their portfolio of high-profile properties. It also should be noted that HHC, which acquired the Ghost Mall out of the bankruptcy of General Growth, bought the entire site for $8 million and sold the parcel to the Wilton Rancheria and their financial sponsor Las Vegas-based Boy Gaming for $32 million.

Of course, if the Wilton Rancheria and Boyd Gaming bought the remaining 64-acres for parking and a major truck stop, it would require an addendum to the gaming compact. Given the ease of the gaming compact recently approved, another rubber-stamped agreement is unlikely to be an obstacle. 

So while it is never a sure thing to wager what HHC will do with the property given their stealthy history of dealings with the citizens of Elk Grove, given they have already made a nifty profit, perhaps the next logical step is to cash-out on the balance of the parcel and take in several more millions in profit.

While lots of voters in Elk Grove will be angry if their shopping center blows away like a tumbleweed in the wind, hey, what would be a better use of the parcel than a major truck stop. Who knows, maybe the truck stop could be that shot-in-the-arm needed for economic development in Elk Grove. 

And oh, if the Wilton Rancheria needs help recruiting a sponsor for the fueling operation, maybe they can hook-up with gas-station developer Paul Petrovich

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

As the radical Indian historian and former Univ. of Colorado professor Ward Churchill would say, "the chickens have come home to roost!"

EGN has raised a provocative scenario whereby White Man lose face and wampum in one fell swoop! Highway 99 is not the Gateway to Granite Bay, but sure could use a truck stop, convenience market, and a greasy spoon that serves up a mean plate of chicken fried steak for the long-haulers.

Yeah, Region Builders will still get their construction jobs, and Howard Hughes will pocket a little cash as they catch the last bus out of town--but once that is completed, say goodbye to gas tax, sales tax, outlet mall, and who knows what else.

Well,we do have that "award winning" Grant line/Kammerer overpass still. I say bring back the soap box derby and maybe we can get on ESPN!

Eye on Elk Grove said...

It is time to face reality, HHC is most likely never going to build the outlet mall. When the residents get restless, wanting an update on the mall, or it is election time, our leaders grumble stridently from the dais with one excuse or another.

So to appease the annoying Elk Grove City Council like that fly buzzing around your face, HHC puts up a new sign with yet another “opening date.” How many of those dates have come and gone, along with the empty promises from the Elk Grove City Council?

HHC made a nice profit on the land and with Delta Shores just miles away and new stores opening every day, it is time we face the fact that the Outlet Collection in Elk Grove may just be a pipe dream.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry but despite the author's so-called trip to the Southwest on investigative journalism (so he can take a tax break on his expenses?), this is an absurd piece of writing. Most Indian casinos through the Southwest are on isolated parcels of land with no development around them. In these scenarios, a gas station makes sense. This is obviously not the case in Elk Grove - there is amble development and, in fact truck stops not too far away. Combine that with the fact that I highly doubt the City Council would approve a truck stop there, and the authors assertion (even if this is an attempt at satire), makes no sense.

If you want to be opposed to the casino or the mall, that is fine. However, at the very least, please write something that makes sense in terms of your position.

D.J. Blutarsky said...

Mr. Barnett missed the main point of the article I'm afraid. And I quote:

"Combine that with the fact that I highly doubt the City Council would approve a truck stop there, and the authors assertion (even if this is an attempt at satire), makes no sense."

The assertion of the article is that if the tribe decides to build a truck stop, gas station, you name it--there's not a darn thing the City Council can do. Sovereign Rights my friends!

On a side note, if EGN was analyzing the Indian casinos in Hawaii, I would tend to agree that the IRS deductions might be worth examining. But the desert of I-40? Come awn maaan....

Unknown said...

LOL - good point about the Indian casinos in Hawai'i vs. I-40 - I'll give you that point.

If the Indian tribe decided to build a truck stop on that land, you are correct that the City could not do anything about it. However, we have seen the plans for their land and all uses for the land would have a higher value than a truck stop so again, it makes no sense.

Now let me look for those Indian casinos in Hawai'i (or Fiji?) - I could use the tax break!

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