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An artist rendering shows the new pool area at Pala Casino Spa & Resort, the first phase in a $170 million expansion.

Pala Casino Spa & Resort recently held a groundbreaking ceremony that was different from the usual gilded shovels.

Robert Smith, Pala Band of Mission Indians chairman drove a bulldozer last week through a brick kiosk in the resort’s pool area to formally kick off a $170 million expansion project.

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    Artist rendering shows the exterior of Pala Casino Resort & Spa after its $170 million expansion.

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Artist rendering shows the exterior of Pala Casino Resort & Spa after its $170 million expansion.


“It’s a little more dramatic, I guess,” said Bill Bembenek, Pala chief executive officer, in a phone interview.

That bit of demolition was required for the 2-1/2 year project. The first phase calls for taking out the single existing pool and replacing it with four pools and two whirlpools in addition to more deck and cabana space, a bar and room for entertainment.

There is much more coming in what Bembenek called Pala’s third significant expansion in the history of the northern San Diego County property.

Pala first announced the project in July and provided additional details about it with today’s ceremony.

Highlights include:

New hotel wing: A new tower will add 348 rooms to the property. The resort is enlarging converting a few rooms in the existing 507-room tower, which will reduce the room count, making the total 853 when the project is complete.

Two will be presidential suites of more than 1,500 square feet on the top floor of the resort, facing the pools. There will be a total of 104 suites throughout both towers.

“We have a very high demand for suites, particularly with our regular gaming guests,” Bembenek said. “We have guests that pay cash for suites. Because it’s a full-scale resort property, they want that experience.”

Overhaul of the existing wing: All the rooms in the existing wing will be completely remodeled, including new furniture and new wall finishings. Bembenek said once the expansion is completed, guests won’t see a difference between the old and the new.

Casino expansion: A showroom will be converted to a bar and lounge and gaming space to bring the slot machine total from  2,100 to 2,500.

Restaurants: Seating and kitchen space will be expanded in four of the resort’s eateries, most notably Luis Rey’s.

“It’s kind of unique because it has substantial outdoor dining and lounge space,” Bembenek said. “We’re putting a stage in that restaurant so on weekends we’ll have live entertainment.”

Concerts: The pool area includes a lawn used as an outdoor concert venue in summer. Area behind the existing pool will be used for new pool complex without changing the lawn footprint, and other adjustments will expand capacity from 2,200 to 2,500 concertgoers, Bemenek said.

Setting: Pala wants to maximize its location in the Palomar Mountains. Bembenek said it wants to “allow the outside in.”

“That something we’re really sensitive to that at Pala … introducing windows in  our casino. Where most casinos don’t do that, we’re going to add even more so that people feel that they’re part of the beauty that surrounds them.”


Where: 11154 Highway 76, Pala

Facilities: Casino with 2,000 slot machines, 80 table games and 15 poker tables; 507-room hotel; 10,000-square-foot, spa; fitness center; swimming pool; 11 restaurants; 40,000 square feet of meeting space; RV park.

Information: 877-946-7252,


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