Tribal Business Booming In Desert Southwest
Is it because they are better educated and more creative than the average Native American? Is it because they all are all riding the “new buffalo” with their expanding casino interests? Is it because the desert Southwest is the fastest growing area in the country? Probably a combination of all three.
The Fort McDowell Yavapai Reservation has broken ground for a 247 room hotel, spa and 28,000 square foot conference center set to open December 1st of this year.
The small tribe already has a casino, Western adventures business, new RV Park, a highly regarded We-Ko-Pa Golf Club and will break ground this year on a second 18 hole course of similar caliber.
The hotel is another move toward economic diversification and job creation for the tribe, whose median household income was $50,313 in the 2000 census. It has about 930 enrolled members.
Three other metropolitan-area tribes Ak-Chin, Gila River and Salt River Pima-Maricopa all operate casinos and are in everything from golf and hotels to office and retail development.
The Ak-Chin Indian Community has a casino hotel and plans to develop land around the area possibly with retail and other attractions.
Gila River Indian Community has three casinos, a hotel, two golf courses and plans to relocate Rawhide Western Town which they recently purchased from the Scottsdale area plus a commercial riverwalk development in the planning stage.
The Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community has two casinos, two golf courses plus various retail-commercial developments.
Further south and west, the Quechan Tribe located on the four corners area of Arizona, California and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California proposes to develop a 300,000 square foot complex on Fort Yuma Reservation land along Interstate in California about six miles west of Yuma, Arizona – my stomping grounds. This development has one major hang up: It all hinges on California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s okay with his decision expected in the next couple of weeks.
The compact would include: A 30,000 square foot, two story casino; a six story, 200 room hotel; a restaurant to seat 350 people; a smaller restaurant for 40; a sports bar to accommodate 100; a 323,000 square-foot events center that will have 2500 concert seats and water features.
The project will have a storm water facility, a wastewater treatment facility, a water supply infrastructure and a 1500 space parking lot. The project is expected to provide from 800 to a thousand jobs for area residents.
Currently the Quechan Tribe operates two casinos next to one another across the Colorado River from Yuma. The original Paradise Casino is in Arizona as a result of the River’s meanderings. And that’s the truth!!! It was built in 1996 with a gaming compact in Arizona.
The second casino constructed in 2002 is less than seven feet from the original but is located in California and has its gaming compact with that state.
Because of the hurricanes in Florida and earthquakes in California, Arizona has become the land of milk, honey and prospering Native American tribal casinos.
This column has been edited for content and length compiled from stories in The Arizona Republic – bylined John Stearns and Yuma Daily Sun – bylined Joyce Lobeck.
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