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Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s culture highlights a new casino in southern Colorado

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IGNACIO, Colo. — The Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s new and opulent venture, the Sky Ute Casino Resort and Conference Center, opens Nov. 18 near the southern Colorado tribal headquarters with a blessing ceremony and speeches by tribal chairman Clement Frost and other tribal officials.

The multimillion-dollar complex near the San Juan National Forest is the largest hotel/casino in the Four Corners region, where southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, northeastern Arizona, and southeastern Utah briefly adjoin.

It will be “the premier property of the Four Corners, both as a casino and a hotel,” Matt Olin, the property’s general manager and chief operating officer, said in a prepared release.

Southern Ute elders and tribal employees helped select the museum-quality Native artwork featured at the facility, including bronze sculptures of the tribal bison, galloping horses, a bear, a Ute flute player, and a Ute family, as well as a 300-year-old buckskin embellished with Ute beadwork, the release notes.

“We wanted to build the Ute culture into the facility, but not overstate it, and keep it subtle,” Olin said. A stained-glass rose lighting figure hangs above the Rose Coffee Bistro because, “in Ute culture, the rose is an important symbol of both female and male beauty.”

The 45,000-square-feet casino is built in conjunction with a 140-room hotel, which includes an indoor lazy river pool, several retail spaces, and a small fitness center. The casino hosts up to 550 slot machines and 20 table games, and there are also a 100-seat bingo hall, 18-hole mini golf course, 24-lane bowling center, 24-site full hook-up RV park, and multiple restaurants, including casual and fine dining areas.

Sky Ute Casino Resort and Conference Center One of the luxury suites at the Southern Ute Indian Tribe's new Sky Ute Casino Resort and Conference Center near Ignacio, Colo. The suites include wet bars, refrigerators, LCD television, full internet capability and Pendleton blankets, only one of a number of American Indian and Ute-themed art and decor features in the massive hotel/casino/resort complex.

Within the casino and hotel, an 18,000-square-feet ballroom and event center is designed to host conferences, live sporting and entertainment events, banquets, weddings, and receptions. It is designed to be divided into four rooms to accommodate events and conferences of different sizes.

“By making the hotel/casino a destination resort, both gaming enthusiasts and families will be amazed at the plethora of entertainment options available to them,” the release states. “Additionally, by incorporating numerous cultural aspects of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe throughout the complex via the museum, vast artwork, and more, visitors will be exposed to the rich history of the Four Corners.”

Among other Native-themed touches: Hotel suites are named after prominent Ute tribal members and feature Pendleton wool blankets, a staple of Indian trading culture, which will be sold in the hotel’s shops. One of the restaurants serves a variety of American Indian and international cuisines rotating during the week. A huge photo of Ute warriors on horseback is visible to swimmers in the hotel pool. The event center will host live boxing, “an important part of the area’s Hispanic and Native culture,” the release notes.

The casino/resort complex is contemporary in terms of amenities, with Wi-Fi internet access at the RV park as well as in guest rooms, which also include a “state-of-the-art voice-over Internet protocol telephone system.”

“Family is at the heart of Ute culture, so making the resort family-friendly was part of the design,” the release states. “Any part of the resort can be reached through an outside entrance, so families won’t need to bring children through the gaming area” and there are youth bowling leagues and kids’ buffets.

Grand opening of the casino resort is scheduled for Nov. 29, with a live concert by country music performer Clint Black, fireworks and other events.

Business ceased at the former nearby Sky Ute casino on Nov. 17, when patrons were instructed chips and tokens were discontinued but could be cashed in there on that day or at the new complex Nov. 18.

The hotel and casino are located about 20 miles southeast of Durango, Colo. on state highway 172 and are near Mesa Verde National Park, other archaeological locations, the San Juan Mountains and ski resorts.

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