June 21, 2012
What began as a renovation of a single Osage Nation casino has grown to an effort to upgrade and rebuild all seven of the tribe's casinos with a standard of at least $9 million going into each, Osage Nation officials said Wednesday.
The master plan to upgrade the casinos passed through the tribe's Legislature, and officials have begun designing the first two to be rebuilt - in Ponca City and Skiatook, Osage Casino CEO Neil Cornelius said.
"We're also designing the new Tulsa casino (Osage Casino-Tulsa), which, of course, is our flagship," he said.
Cornelius, Osage Nation Principal Chief John Red Eagle and other officials spoke about the remodeling Wednesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to reintroduce the Osage Casino-Sand Springs after a $9 million renovation.
"This is a remodel," Cornelius said. "Most of the others will be rebuilt."
The Sand Springs location was the tribe's first casino, built in 2004, and was the first of their seven casinos to be upgraded.
The plan to rebuild all seven casinos does not have an estimated cost because "we haven't gotten that far yet," Cornelius said.
But he said the plans for the six other casinos - in Tulsa, Bartlesville, Skiatook, Ponca City, Hominy and Pawhuska - could all be more extensive than the $9 million remodel at the Sand Springs location.
Red Eagle said the Sand Springs casino opened in 2004 in a "double-wide trailer" and "from that has grown a business that provides services for the Osage citizens."
At Wednesday's ceremony, Red Eagle said a prayer before blessing the audience and the casino.
The renovation of the Sand Springs casino began as an effort to improve the air quality and get rid of smoke that accumulated inside the building, officials said.
Cornelius said the renovation grew from there, resulting in a $2 million ventilation system that is capable of renewing all of the air inside the building with outside air every 10 minutes. About $7 million more was spent on interior and exterior remodeling, including a new VIP section, lighting features, new carpet and new bars, among other upgrades, according to a news release.
Cornelius said the plans to remodel the rest of the casinos will move forward as more money is available.
"This one is the launch of a new standard for us," he said.
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