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Construction delays hold up casino hotel opening

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Seven months after its anticipated completion, Cliff Castle Casino Hotel is not yet open.

In early 2016, the Yavapai-Apache Nation and co-developer DreamCatcher Hotels signed a contract with Scottsdale-based A.R. Mays Construction, naming A.R. as construction contractor for the project and setting a “substantial completion” date of March 1. Substantial completion means that construction work is completed enough to allow commercial use of the property.


The hotel consists of 122 rooms, an indoor pool and spa, a multipurpose event center, a coffee shop, a retail outlet and a 300-space parking garage. According to a mid-September report to the YAN Tribal Council, the hotel is “designed to achieve 4-diamond status, a hospitality quality rating that will markedly increase earnings for both the hotel and casino,” marking the beginning of a “new era” for the casino.

“For a variety of reasons, the contractor failed to achieve the [substantial completion date],” the report stated. “The nation still has not been able to take possession of the hotel and open for business .... Some of the project delay is attributable to causes outside of the contractor’s control. For example, during the earthwork phase of the project certain unforeseen conditions arose that resulted in a brief delay.”

Other delays, however, fall at the feet of A.R. Mays, according to the report: “The bulk of the delay experienced on the project, delay that continues today, appears to have been caused by circumstances completely within the control of the contractor.

“During the month of January 2017, heavy rains caused water damage within the hotel due to the contractor’s failure to complete the roof and dry-in the building prior to starting interior work such as insulation and drywalling. The rain damage, which could have been prevented had the contractor taken certain simple protective measures such as covering the roof, which the contractor did not do, resulted in some additional delays.”

According to the report, construction is an estimated 95 percent complete, with 121 of the 122 rooms completed but for “minor finishing and touchup.” The rooms are furnished except for the installation of televisions.

The “punch list” of tasks yet to be completed is extensive: Multipurpose room area items left undone from November 2016, inspection list items, fire life safety system commissioning, domestic water system commissioning, pool equipment hook-up, lighting commissioning, operation and management training, delivery of warranty and operational manuals and finishing and touching up a variety of interior areas.

One of the most outstanding items yet to be rectified is the correct installation of heating and cooling units. Each room has its own vertical air conditioning [VTAC] unit, which is vented through the outside wall of the hotel through a louvered grill-covering opening.

“During the construction process the contractor incorrectly installed the VTAC units in all rooms, and thereby failed to properly seal the wall opening against water intrusion that could occur during rainfall events,” the report stated. “[The] VTAC work was rejected by the architect. A great deal of project time has been expended in efforts to require the contractor to correct the rejected VTAC work.”

As a result, YAN has halted A.R. Mays’ VTAC work and is seeking a separate contractor to correct the VTAC work and complete the hotel.

“Once the corrective VTAC work begins, it is estimated that completion of the hotel can be achieved over the next several months,” the report stated. “However, if the punch list items can proceed quickly, it is expected that the multipurpose event center can open for business prior to the hotel opening.

In addition, depending on how the VTAC work is staged and proceeds, it may be possible to open several floors of the hotel prior to completion of all VTAC work.”

According to YAN, the tribal council hopes to announce a grand opening date within the next month.

A.R. Mays referred inquiries regarding the hotel to senior project manager Tom DiSpirito, who did not respond by press time.

Cliff Castle Casino director of marketing James Perry referred inquiries to YAN Attorney General Scott Canty. Canty did not respond by press time.

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