Considering the announcement in December by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) that this year’s ballot would include two multi-million dollar casino referendums, including money for the renovation of their Chocolay Township casino in Michigan‘s Upper Peninsula, many community members were left wondering what that means for their plans at the former Marquette County Airport.
CEO for the KBIC, Larry Denomie, said, for almost 15 years they have been in the process of relocating the Chocolay casino to the airport property, and the expansion plans are a direct result of that, according to Upper Michigan’s Source. That, and the fact that the KBIC’s 2006 proposal to move its Ojibwa II casino from Chocolay Township to the airport site was rejected by Governor Rick Snyder, left KBIC with no choice but to make alternate plans.
Back in 1999, KBIC purchased more than 50 acres for 1.4 million, while more than 500 acres were purchased by Peter O’Dovero, owner of property management company, O’Dovero Development, and Associated Constructors, LLC. The two had big plans to develop the land that was centrally located with highway access in that area of Negaunee Township.
Approximately 175 jobs would have been created by the original multi-million dollar plan to build a 135,000-square-foot facility, but it had to be scaled down because of two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The cost to KBIC for the application was approximately $6 million and the process has taken about 15 years. However, it first needed approval by the Department of Interior, which took several years to obtain. The project was approved by two governors who were in office during the time, but KBIC’s application didn’t make it to the state’s office until Governor Snyder took office. Snyder would not approve the casino move unless a broader agreement could be reached, which they wanted nothing to do with, according to KBIC.
In spite of the challenges the KBIC face, they aren’t ready to give up their plans for the airport project just yet. Jennifer Misegan, vice president of the KBIC, said they think that Snyder would like to reconsider his original decision and they’d like to give him that opportunity. A statement was released to TV6 by the governor’s office regarding the 2012-2013 Marquette County Airport casino proposal. It stated that at this time the governor’s office isn’t aware of any renewed proposal by KBIC, and as previously stated, it would be willing to consider the proposal if the state’s terms were met.
As of yet, KBIC hasn’t submitted a new application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.