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Prairie Knights additions attract North Dakota marketers

State and federal officials joined Standing Rock Sioux tribal leaders to celebrate the opening of the new Pavilion Events Center at the Prairie Knights Casino on Hwy 24 north of Fort Yates.

A $7.5 million expansion of the casino complex included addition of 25 new hotel rooms, two new suites and the Pavilion Events Center seating as many as 2,000 people for concerts and conventions.

The casino opened nine years ago with an initial investment of $13.5 million. It expanded in 1995 adding the lodge and hotel including 65 rooms and two suites.

Officials from the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce and the governor's office said July 26 they will continue to assist the tribe in marketing efforts to bring travelers to the casino complex which sits on a remote stretch of a two-lane road north of Fort Yates.

Despite its remoteness, the casino's management focused on attracting traffic from nearby Bismarck area.

State officials pledged to help with marketing by making information from the state's survey available. Further, the state chamber will market the complex to entice tourists to visit North Dakota.

The complex officially opened the night of July 26, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for The Pavilion and the new Prairie Knights Lodge addition.

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Standing Rock Chairman Charles Murphy said the 25,000-square-foot event center and addition of new rooms at Prairie Knights Lodge gives the tribe a tremendous opportunity to bring new business to the reservation.

"We're now a conference facility as well as an entertainment facility."

The center attracted more than 2,000 country music fans May 30 to hear Ricky Van Shelton on opening night at the region's newest entertainment mecca. Van Shelton's sold-out concert was the first of five scheduled this summer. Performers included John Anderson July 13, Waylon Jennings July 27, BlackHawk Aug. 5 and Joe Diffie Aug. 17.

Tickets for all concerts are available by calling 800-425-8277.

"This is more economic development for the people on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. We're all thankful for the success," Tribal Vice Chairman Tom Iron said.

Casino managers said the additions at Prairie Knights will provide additional jobs and widen the variety of experiences at the casino.

State officials said they wanted to expand the relationship, helping the tribe further its economic development efforts and offer the tribe an opportunity to cash in on a $2.6 billion tourism industry. Many of those visitors are from Norway and Sweden looking for a window into American Indian culture, a taste of the Old West and entertainment.