NEW Meeting Venues and NEW Hope for Communities
by Stephen Lindsley
Many tales have been told of the epic struggle by Native Americans to maintain control of their native lands, while learning to live on the reservations set aside for them by the U.S. government. Countless battles have been fought, both with weapons of war, and with litigation and legislation. Today, the tribal leadership of every Indian nation in America continues to seek ways of using their lands that will be beneficial to their communities. In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which maintained tribal sovereignty and allowed compacts with states to regulate gaming. This was a turning point for many nations that had been struggling to provide not only employment for their people, but social services and infrastructure improvements that were sorely needed.
California is home to the largest number of Indian casinos in the country, but tribes in the Midwest have been steadily adding and upgrading their gaming facilities as well. While some are little more than bingo halls at a roadside service pavilion, others have grown to Las Vegas proportions, including all the lodging and entertainment offerings one might expect in Vegas.
MEETING AT A MEETING OF STATES
Just a few miles west of Joplin, Mo., the Quapaw Tribe’s Downstream Casino is located at the intersection of three states: Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas. The Hotel at Downstream Casino Resort is a 222-room hotel tower, and a new tower will open in January, bringing the total to number of rooms to 374. Amenities include five dining areas, a fitness center and a heated outdoor pool.
The Legends Sports Bar offers lunch and dinner options in a casual atmosphere, while a snack bar on the edge of the gaming floor serves pizza, hamburgers and deli sandwiches 24 hours a day. A buffet is a must-have casino dining option, and here the Spring River Buffet fills the bill. The Buffalo Grille is a popular breakfast stop, while offering lunch and dinner specials as well. The signature restaurant at Downstream Casino is the Red Oak Steakhouse, which has earned a reputation as one of the region’s premier dining experiences. Dry-aged steaks, fresh seafood and exotic game top the menu, while a large wine list and impeccable service add to the experience. On Sunday, the $45 prix fixe menu is a favorite.
The meeting facilities at Downstream Casino are new and state-of-the-art. The multi-use Pavilion is the largest option, with 10,000 square feet of space, and capacity for up to 1,200 standing or 650 seated for dinner, with a dedicated banquet kitchen for meal service. The walls of the Pavilion are automated, allowing them to be opened or closed depending on the weather and the nature of the event.
Banquet rooms on the main level of the hotel add another 4,500 square feet of flexible meeting area for smaller groups, but with the same high level of service.
THE PERFECT PARTNER
The Joplin Chamber of Commerce is a group that has used many of the different meeting areas at Downstream Casino. In the Pavilion, they have held their Dancing with the Joplin Stars event, which is capped at 400 guests to allow seating around a central dance floor area. Stephanie McGrew, special events coordinator at the Joplin Chamber of Commerce says that the Downstream Casino has been a great partner. “They are just fantastic to work with,” says McGrew, “and the services are top-notch. There is no request they can’t handle.” The casino and meeting facilities are just 11 miles from downtown Joplin, she notes, and the facilities at Downstream leave a very positive impression. “No one blinks an eye at having to drive there from Joplin for a meeting. It is very convenient.”
Meanwhile, just north of Topeka in Mayetta, Ks., the Prairie Band Casino and Resort is another property that boasts a high level of quality and service. The 297-room hotel includes 100 Meadow Tower luxury rooms, 137 Garden Tower luxury rooms overlooking the prairie, 52 Courtyard Rooms with balconies that look out on the courtyard, and eight two-room suites that also look out on the courtyard from the third floor.
The Longhouse Buffet is a popular dining option, and the Buffalo Grill stays open late to serve hungry gamers. The Three Fires Steakhouse is the high-end dining option, where head chef Robbi Jenkins works her magic to create new and delicious dishes that blend haute cuisine with cherished family recipes.
The meeting facilities at Prairie Band Casino and Resort can accommodate groups of any size, with spaces ranging from the 12,000 sq. ft. convention center to the Board Room, which seats 16. Free wireless Internet is available, and the A.V. equipment is the latest available.
The resort also offers an R.V. park with 67 pull-through spaces and 24hour security, and the two-year-old Firekeeper Golf Course, a signature design of four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III, the only full-blooded Native American on the tour. The course is planned to remain free of residential housing, so sight lines are clean and the lush natural environment creates a unique atmosphere.
Many of the employees of Prairie Band Casino and Resort study restaurant and hospitality management at nearby Haskell University. This is one of the ways that gaming has provided new prosperity for tribe members. Casino ad manager Sheryl Blue notes that her director teaches gaming management at Haskell, and overall the casino has had an “amazing impact” on the community, including, “a new government center, health center, a boys and girls club, and daycare,” plus other improvements such as newly paved roads.
Mentioned above are just two examples of Indian casinos that have grown In Skiatook, just north of Tulsa, the to include first-class hotels and meeting Osage Nation is planning a new three-facilities, but they are not alone. The story, 33-room hotel with a restaurant, Osage Nation has taken advantage of its sports bar, and 8,500 sq. ft. of meeting 2,400 square miles of reservation land – rooms and convention space, according all of Osage County, Oklahoma, which to Chris Barton, public relations special-is a larger area than Rhode Island – to launch a gaming empire that has grown from 2001 to now include seven locations and more than 1,000 employees.
In Skiatook, just north of Tulsa, the Osage Nation is planning a new three-story, 33-room hotel with a restaurant, sports bar, and 8,500 sq. ft. of meeting rooms and convention space, according to Chris Barton, public relations specialist for Osage Casinos.
The Osage Nation also offers the closest gaming option for the Tulsa area, which boasts a population of nearly a million. Located on the northwestern corner of town, the Osage Casino in Tulsa also features the 4,600 sq. ft. Osage Event Center, which is an increasingly popular concert venue, hosting acts such as Starship, Crystal Gayle and Tanya Tucker. The Event Center is also available for private functions of all kinds. The in-house catering and planning staff can help construct the perfect menu and plan, and the rental fee includes tables, chairs, standard linens, setup and cleanup and a beverage station.
Closer to home, a Wyandotte Nation cemetery in downtown Kansas City with a long and storied history is now home to the 7th Street Casino, which is housed in a former Scottish Rite Temple. An ambitious renovation of the property has resulted in a small but well-appointed new casino that is a new facet of the Wyandotte Nation’s gaming portfolio. Its main operations are located in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, near Joplin (and Downstream).
Each of these facilities provides a much-needed influx of capital for these nations, resulting in a wide range of social services and projects, not to mention employment, not just on the casino floor but also in construction of new and better facilities, restaurant, hotel and meeting management and operations, and all of the supporting businesses and services. It means nothing less than a complete revitalization of some of these communities, and an increasingly wide array of meeting and event venues that are also destinations in themselves.
Downstream Casino Resort
69300 East Nee Road
Quapaw, OK 74363
Osage Casino Tulsa
951 West 36th Street North
Tulsa, OK 74127
Osage Event Center Information
7th Street Casino
777 North 7th Street Trafficway
Kansas City, Kansas
(913) 371.3500 ext. 148