Filling a void


Sac & Fox Nation seeks development of former Tanger Mall site

STROUD, Okla. - The May 3, 1999, tornado that traveled the length of Oklahoma's I-44 and wreaked havoc through cities such as Moore, Midwest City and Del City also had a severe effect on Stroud, home of the Sac & Fox Nation reservation and tribal complex.

The Tanger Outlet Mall, which supplied jobs and served as a source of economic development to Stroud, lay upon its paved foundation as if nothing more than a crumpled piece of aluminum foil, crushed by the hands of Mother Nature. Although the former owners vowed to rebuild, according to Tulsa World reports, the business eventually left the area. The result: 57.10 dormant acres, most of it paved and ready for development.

''It devastated a lot of people and their lives,'' said Georgia Noble, chair of the Sac & Fox Nation Enterprise Board. ''When [Tanger Mall] left and was no longer here, then we lost companies like Sigma and some other companies that were here that provided a lot of employment for the community. When they pulled stakes and relocated to another location, after Tanger had left, it's just been really a struggle to try to get any kind of economic development up and going again.''

In 2005, former Sac & Fox Principal Chief Kay Rhodes made an offer to purchase the property; but according to Noble, official transactions did not begin until Dec. 9, 2006, when the Sac & Fox Nation Council approved the resolution to purchase 18.3 acres of the former Tanger Outlet Mall site from the city of Stroud and the Stroud Hospital and Development Authority. The deal finally closed Feb. 19, 2008, with the Sac & Fox purchasing the property for $1.3 million.

Immediate and short-term plans for the Tanger Mall site include extending retailing and franchising opportunities to interested parties, although at press time no retail or franchising bids had been made on the property.

''We're still in the process right now of doing some preliminary strategic planning on the future development of the property,'' Noble said. ''In addition, I hope we're going to be able to work in concert with the city of Stroud in the development of the remaining acreages there to be able to bring that particular plot of land back to life again after the 1999 tornado.''

Although the Sac & Fox Nation is going through the process of applying for federal trust land status for the site, which is required for a tribally owned casino, there are no current plans for a casino on the site. Noble said she estimates that for the property to obtain trust status will take up to five years.

Currently, the Sac & Fox Nation is in the process of building two casinos - one in Shawnee and one on the reservation property near Stroud. The Sac & Fox are also developing land in Cushing for a casino.

''It's premature right now for us to even talk about [a casino] without it being placed in trust,'' Noble said. ''Right now, what we're doing is saying, 'Look. Now that we've got the land; we don't want it to be dormant waiting for trust status. We need to start planning to have something there that's going to be a benefit to the nation.'''

One of the major attractions of the property is its close proximity to I-44, which Noble estimated at having 25,000 cars per day, thereby drawing both a local and tourist market. This would, in turn, expand the options that retail customers have regarding where to spend their hard-earned money.

''It would be a tremendous benefit, probably to the whole area, not only just to Stroud,'' Noble said about the site's economic potential. ''Our target is those making the mall their target destination - something that's going to attract them.''