The River Region's Wave of the Future!
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The plan for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians' new hotel calls for a 285-room hotel with a fine-dining restaurant, a grill, a coffee shop, pool and snack bar.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians are beginning construction of a $246 million, 20-story hotel and casino that will tower over Wetumpka along the banks of the Coosa River.
Wind Creek Wetumpka, which is expected to be completed by Jan. 1, 2014, would be at the site of the tribe’s current casino off U.S. 231 about nine miles northeast of Montgomery.
Jay Dorris, president and chief executive officer of PCI Gaming, said a portion of the facilities including the gambling area and restaurants on the ground floor would be completed by October 2013.
The expansion would create an additional 600 jobs, bringing the total work force for the tribe’s Elmore County operation to about 1,000, said Cody Williamson, property manager of Creek Casino Wetumpka.
“In these economic times, this is something we are really happy about,” Dorris said.
Williamson said they expect 1,200 construction workers to be on-site from the beginning of the project until its completion. He said those workers will need places to stay, eat, and participate in other activities.
The resort is expected to include about 285 rooms and suites, a fine-dining restaurant, a grill, a coffee shop, a snack bar and a buffet with seating overlooking the river, Dorris said. Other amenities include “a resort pool, and entertainment rooms suitable for large parties and corporate events.”
The casino will include a 90,000-square- foot gaming floor with more than 2,500 electronic gambling machines. The casino currently has more than 900 machines.
Dorris said the facility would be similar to the Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Atmore, which has received four out of five diamonds in the rating system from the American Automobile Association.
Dorris hopes the Wetumpka location can be five diamonds.
“This facility will be first-class,” he said.
The hotel in Atmore includes a spa and an amphitheater.
Dorris said the plans for Wetumpka do not include a spa, although that remains a possibility in the future. There are also no current plans for a theater, although that also remains a possibility, according to tribal officials.
Dorris said they have established a line of credit to pay for the construction, which he said would be funded with tribal money.
He said the current payroll for the tribe is $67 million and that would expand to about $87.5 million with the new project and include more than 2,000 employees. By comparison, the new much-lauded Airbus aviation plant in Mobile is expected to employ 1,000 people with a payroll of about $60 million, according to multiple media reports.
A spokeswoman for the tribe, when reached Wednesday afternoon, said she was not certain about the pay range for the 600 new positions, but said the employee benefits would include dental and health insurance plans.
Dorris said the three Poarch Creek facilities in the state — in Wetumpka — Montgomery and Atmore, have obviously benefitted from some non-tribal facilities in the state closing.
“While they were open, before they ever closed, we were growing,” he said.
Former Gov. Bob Riley began cracking down on electronic gambling, which he believed was played on slot machines that are illegal in the state, at non-Indian facilities in December 2008 and several facilities in the state were shut down or voluntarily shutdown because of the threat of a raid by state law enforcement. VictoryLand in Shorter, which was the largest facility in the state, was among those in the state that closed because of the threat of a raid from a task force created by Riley. VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor has vowed to reopen his facility, but has not given a timeline.
Dorris said, like Atmore, they expect people from all over the region to come to the Wetumpka location. He said they know, from information they have from a customer database, that some Montgomery and Birmingham residents are stopping at Atmore instead of going to the casinos in Biloxi, Miss.
“They will have no reason to go to Biloxi,” Dorris said.
Biloxi, however, does have slot machines and table games, which are not allowed in Alabama. Local constitutional amendments allow Class II gambling in certain municipalities and counties.
The Poarch Creeks, which are the only federally recognized tribe in Alabama, can operate Class II gambling on their land, which is reservation land under the authority of the federal government.
Some state officials believe the electronic bingo machines are slot machines and that the games at those facilities exceed Class II gambling. Tribal officials disagree.
Dorris said Wednesday that they are not concerned about efforts to stop electronic gambling in the state and that they would not make that investment if they were.
Tribal officials and managers for PCI Gaming, the gaming authority of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, announced the major expansion Wednesday morning on the fifth floor of the current parking deck at the casino.
Dorris said the current parking deck has spaces for about 500 vehicles and would be expanded to a deck with 2,500 parking spots. He said they pay taxes on that facility.
The casinos are on tribal land and are not subject to local and state taxes.
Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis said the ad valorem taxes on the deck would be five times larger and that there would be taxes on some of the features adjacent to the casino and tower.
Willis said he believes the tribe purchased adjacent apartments, which are vacant, and has the permits to tear them down.
Much like Atmore, the hotel and casino in Wetumpka would be a towering facility in a rural part of the state.
With this type of development in a town the size of Wetumpka, Willis said there are so many unknowns. He said the city has 7,800 residents and that while it is a “major, major development for the city,” there will have to be managed growth to deal with traffic and other issues. He also said the town needs three other hotels.
“We hope it is going to mean good things for the entire River Region,” Willis said.
Willis said he knows some people do not support the Poarch Creek gambling facility in the community, but “we deal with what we have.”
“We’re going to do the best we can with what we have,” he said.
Willis believes that, generally, thinking has changed in the community from the first discussions about an Indian casino in Elmore County.
“This means so much to us, means so much to our schools, means so much to our economy,” he said.
Alberta Green, an employee at the current casino, said she was excited about the expansion. She said she began working at the casino four years ago and “never dreamed I would be in management.” Green started out chopping and doing other similar work in the kitchen and now manages a team of about 18 people. She said they already cook about 300 meals during an eight-hour shift.
Green said the job has benefits and helped her put her son through college.
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