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Oglala Sioux Tribe finalizes plans on expanding casino

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OGLALA, S.D. (AP) ? The Oglala Sioux Tribe will break ground on Sept. 29 on an $18-million expansion of its Prairie Wind Casino, a move expected to bring badly needed jobs to a region suffering from high unemployment.

The tribal council approved expansion project's final design on Aug. 20. The five-phase project calls for a luxury hotel, movie theaters, restaurants, a convention center and other amenities.

"I think it will bring an impact to this reservation," said Frank Means, a Pine Ridge District tribal-council representative and chairman of the tribe's Economic & Business Development Committee. "The attitude here is skepticism. I think we can make people optimistic with this casino project."

Means estimated that the first phase of the project will bring in 109 new jobs to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where unemployment is about 85 percent.

Tribal Vice President Theresa Two Bulls said the project makes good on an administrative promise to promote economic development and that, when completed, will "bring hundreds of more jobs to the reservation over the next several years."

The first phase of the project involves construction of a 45,000-square-foot building to house offices, a gaming floor, a sports bar, a steakhouse and a 78-room luxury hotel. Future phases of the project include additions to the hotel, movie theaters, a bowling alley, a convention center and an amphitheater.

The tent currently housing the casino will be converted into an entertainment center with stage, light and sound systems for hosting music events.

The tribe has earmarked $1 million in casino revenue for capital improvements, Means said. Another $400,000 is available through the Oglala Rural Water Supply System, because the first phase includes building a water-storage tank and two pumping stations. An additional $300,000 has been set aside for building roads and parking lots.

Officials plan to start work on the water and road systems this fall and then begin building the casino next spring. The project is scheduled for completion by December 2003.

In addition to attracting more patrons, the casino also could make history, Means said. "I think we're going to have the first three-story building structure in the history of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with the construction of that hotel," he said.