Quapaws hit the jackpot with $300 million casino resort

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OTTAWA COUNTY, Okla. - Gaming enthusiasts from across Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas were primed and ready for action July 5 when the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma;s new Downstream Casino Resort opened its doors for the first time. More than 10,000 players crowded onto the gaming floor within the casino's first hour of business.

The Tulsa-based Manhattan Construction Co. contracted with the tribe's Downstream Development Authority to build the $301 million resort. Situated on 145 acres of land just 45 minutes north of the Arkansas state line, it straddles the boundaries between Oklahoma and Missouri. Its features include a 70,000-square-foot gaming room, 2,000 slots, 30 game tables, 14 poker tables, and a race book in its Legends Sports Bar.

Four restaurants - a world-class steakhouse, sumptuous buffet, 24-hour grill and a ''grab-and-go'' food court - along with the Devil's Promenade cocktail lounge are located near the casino floor.

A 13-story luxury hotel and conference center complete with full-service spa, outdoor pool, 222 rooms, more than a dozen luxury suites, and a penthouse with VIP lounge is slated to open this fall. Adjoining the parking lot, an outdoor concert arena with seats for 7,500 is also in the works.

Additionally, the tribe purchased the nearby Loma Linda Country Club. Renamed Eagle Creek Golf Club, it will soon open with two 18-hole championship courses, currently being redesigned by golf pro John Daly, winner of the 1991 PGA Championship and the 1995 British Open. According to the resort's Web site, the courses ''traverse a spectacular landscape - a golf experience like no other.'' A second phase of construction is also planned, during which the tribe will build a second hotel nearby.

The encouraging number of opening-day visitors was a promising start for Quapaw leaders. They are hoping the venture will bring much-needed prosperity to the area for all involved in the project.

''This isn't just the Quapaw Tribe doing something for the Quapaw Tribe,'' said John Berrey, tribal chairman and chairman of the Downstream Development Authority. ''This is a partnership with the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas working as a team to benefit the entire four-state region.''

Berrey said the partners hope to see growth in state, tribal and private retail outlets near the resort that will draw visitors from northwest Arkansas.

''We want to start getting people up here to shop and spend time,'' he added.

The resort is the area's 11th casino, including the Quapaw's small casino near the town of Miami. Miami Mayor Brent Brassfield has stated that he believes the resort will have a significant impact on the economy of all areas within a 100-mile radius.

According to John Snyder, Manhattan Construction president, the resort was built in just less than 11 months. Tribal officials said they were awed by the company's professionalism and rapid progress. G. Michael ''Mickey'' Brown, casino project manager and former president of the Mashantucket Pequot's Foxwoods Resort Casino, said the quality and detail of the finished project is exceptional.

Both casino and hotel interiors are finished with high-end ornate architectural details utilizing fabric, natural colors and textures, stone tile, and millwork with variety of woods, lush carpeting, and dramatic lighting throughout. Brown was also instrumental in the transformation of Atlantic City, N.J., into an international gaming center in the 1980s.

On July 2, the tribe invited members of the media and guests for a sneak preview of the resort's gaming floor and various facilities. Three days later, festivities began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Missouri state Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, presided, thanking the tribe for their significant investment in Missouri, and for providing hundreds of jobs for Missourians.

''A tremendous number of Missouri citizens are employed in this enterprise,'' he pointed out. ''We thank the Quapaw people for their investment here.''

The casino and resort currently employs 1,125 full-time employees, but it is eventually expected to top 1,400 workers, some of which will be part-timers. It will have an annual payroll of $35 million.

Barry Switzer, former Dallas Cowboys and University of Oklahoma Sooners coach, is the resort's celebrity spokesman. During the opening ceremony, he praised the tribe for persistence and determination. He said he knew the feeling of pride tribal leaders had when they brought the project to its fruition.

''I had the same feeling when I beat [Nebraska] up in Lincoln and won a Big Eight championship,'' he laughed. Switzer led OU to three national championships and guided the Cowboys to a 1995 victory in the Super Bowl.

Berrey dedicated the resort to the memories of tribal members that have passed on.

''It's almost hard for us to fathom that we are really here today,'' he said. John Cirrincione, the resort's general manager added, ''This is the beginning of a new vision and future for the Quapaw Tribe.''