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Oneida Nation plans resort expansion

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VERONA, N.Y. ? The Oneida Indian Nation of New York has announced plans to add a pair of hotels and a 5,000-seat events center to its Turning Stone Casino complex.

At an August press conference, the Nation revealed an ambitious project to expand its current casino/hotel/golf-course operation into a "world-class" resort.

On the drawing board are a 20-story, 300-room hotel near the casino, a 100-suite "golf hotel" to be located near the tribe's golf courses, a 2,500-car parking garage, a luxury spa and an events center which can be configured to host concerts and other events including boxing matches and indoor soccer and lacrosse games.

"Nine years ago, most people had never heard of Verona," said Nation Representative Ray Halbritter at the Aug. 2 announcement. "The people who work for us have made us such a success and ? will [continue to] make us a success as we continue to grow into a world-class destination resort."

Nation officials said the new resort facilities will create 1,000 new jobs. With some 3,100 employees, the Oneida Nation is already the largest employer in the area.

The golf hotel, spa and parking garage are scheduled to open in September 2003, while the larger hotel and events center are slated to open their doors in June 2004.

In May, the Nation announced plans to construct two new championship golf courses, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Tom Fazio, to open in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

The Oneidas' existing facilities include the Turning Stone Casino, a 285-room luxury hotel and three golf courses.

A private developer recently announced plans for a pair of hotels, restaurants and a shopping mall to be built on land across the road from the casino complex.

Local political leaders were receptive to the prospect of new jobs, but did voice infrastructure concerns, particularly regarding roads and water use.

"We need to sit down and talk about the impact on the surrounding infrastructure," said Ralph Eannace, Oneida County Executive. Eannace added that the Nation's expansion plans will help promote the area as a tourist destination, and called for "joint planning" with Nation leaders.

"One thousand new jobs excites me," Verona Town Supervisor David K. Reed said.