Renovations to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa Indians’ two gaming facilities located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula totaling more than $40 million were announced in a November 2016 press release.
In a recent interview with local news station WLUC TV6, Ojibwa Casinos General Manager Donald Wren said the $33 million renovation at the Marquette Ojibwa Casino located on M-28 is “moving right along.” Wren said that they are a “little behind where they want to be” but that just like with any major construction, it is not uncommon for site issues to cause delays.
The renovation at the Marquette Ojibwa Casino is expected to be completed by September 2018 and includes twice the games the casino currently operates with, brand new restaurants, and expanded amenities. According to the news agency, the property will also be home to a new 76-room hotel slated to become a destination experience for visitors to the area. Wren told the news agency, “It moves from this small little gaming facility with a little grill to a full-fledged opportunity for people to come in and be completely entertained and not just on the gaming side.”
Included in the new attractions being built are a 400-seat convention center and a 1,200-seat concert venue, which should give the Island Resort Casino, owned and operated by the Hannahville Indian Community and located approximately 80 miles away in Harris, some competition. The 1,327 seat theatre-style Island Showroom features headline acts and has hosted some of the biggest names in entertainment.
Wren told WLUC, they plan to bring in a wide variety of entertainment including stand-up comics, variety acts, and musicians covering a range of genres. He said, “It’s going to be an exciting opportunity both for the tribe, for the employees, [and] the community.”
Along with the long-anticipated upgrades, the casino’s expansion brings with it the possibility of adding more than 50 workers to the casino; another advantage to the area.
In the April 2017 issue of Wiikwedong Dazhi-Ojibwe, Larry Denomie III, the tribe’s chief executive officer, wrote that it appears as though the Marquette project will exceed the $33 million renovation budget by at least $2.5 million. Driving the cost up, he said, were the new hotel and concert venue, indianz.com reports. Denomie wrote, that the changes are being addressed by scaling back the work at the Baraga casino so that the tribe can stay within the $40 million budget approved by tribal citizens in August last year. Rather than adding a new building at the casino site, the project will now consist of a “major facelift inside,” as reported by the news agency.
Denomie reportedly said, “The tribe remains positive about the casino projects. They will provide a return on the investment whether as originally planned or modified as described above.”
Meanwhile, the casino located on Michigan Avenue in Baraga is running about a month behind schedule, according to the WLUC report and is now expected to be completed in March 2018.
The news agency reports that employees of the Baraga Ojibwa casino are looking forward to upgrades at their casino. Slot Manager Chris Schofield said, “Infrastructure one was a big thing at the Baraga property,” and, “Once we get the infrastructure, the heating and the cooling, that will be a huge success for us here.”
Located near the intersection of US-41 and M-38, the Baraga facility is receiving more than $5 million in infrastructure updates. Included in the upgrades are new heating and cooling units and new active smoke eaters.
Last month, the KBIC held and open house where community members were encouraged by KBIC President Chris Swartz, to apply for a variety of construction jobs the tribe is looking to fill for future projects at both casino locations.
In August last year, the KBIC approved the two projects by ballot measure in a referendum authorizing a total of $40 million for the projects with $6.5 million slated for Baraga and $33.5 million for their Marquette casino. This reversed funding approved in 2015 that would have seen the bulk of the money go to the Baraga project. The state’s rejection of KBIC plans to build an off-reservation casino prompted the re-apportionment decision approved by community members. In early December last year, the KBIC held groundbreaking ceremonies on the casino expansion and improvement projects.