What? A 170 Million Dollar Resort in Tahlequah?

An artist’s rendering of the newly announced Cherokee Springs Plaza includes a casino, two hotels, convention center and retail space. COURTESY

An artist’s rendering of the newly announced Cherokee Springs Plaza includes a casino, two hotels, convention center and retail space. COURTESY

On the first day of the Cherokee Nation Holidays, CNE announced the building of a 170 million dollar resort/casino to be built in Tahlequah. The news caught many Cherokees by surprise. On Thursday, August 28th, Shawn Slaton, CEO of CNB, reported to the tribal council and said nothing of it. On Friday, the announcement was made.

According to the two articles, the resort will be called “Cherokee Springs Plaza” and will be a sort of all-in-one casino, shopping, golfing, hotel and dining complex.

The development will cover 150 acres and cover a massive 1.3 million square feet of mixed-use space.

The complex will include:

  • Spots for six national restaurants
  • Two hotels
  • A casino
  • A convention center
  • A connection to the golf course
  • Retail shop outlets
  • Office spaces
  • Auto sales lots

The project will be built in three phases, take about four years, and is estimated to cost 170 million dollars.

In the articles, Chief Baker says that the resort will reverse the flow of dollars and that people from Tulsa and Muskogee will come to Tahlequah to play golf, shop and dine, rather than the other way around. He said, “It’s just going to be a destination of a mixture of fine dining, shopping, a casino resort, golfing.”

CNB Executive Vice President Chuck Garrett, apparently overseeing the project, said he was looking forward to helping create Baker’s vision. He said, “As chief said, I think that for the first time the citizens of Tahlequah and Cherokee County are going to have the entertainment and amenities that they deserve.”

CNB CEO Shawn Slaton echoed their sentiments. “This development will also create new shopping and dining opportunities not currently found in the Tahlequah market.”

Around the weekend holiday events, Cherokees seem to be asking a lot of questions. Some were wondering if a massive complex would change the character of the town. Some worried that it may put what shops and restaurants that remain in Tahlequah out of business.

On Cherokee-related Facebook pages (see front page sidebar), several people commented that the project was basically unsustainable. Someone pointed out that Chief Baker’s furniture store sits right next to the development and questioned his motives about property values. Another said that the land was not in trust and no casino can be built until it is. One person pointed out the area has one of the highest poverty levels in Oklahoma where people are just surviving and are not interested in “fine dining.” One person reminded others that Tahlequah had not been able to support even a Starbucks.

Other commenters on Facebook thought the news was great. Some were supportive of the project saying that the complex would create jobs and opportunities. As a resort destination, one person felt the complex would be successful and would bolster the town’s economy. They seemed to share Chief Baker’s view that the site was “going to be a showplace for Oklahoma.”

For now, many Cherokees are confused and many questions remain unanswered. More information will be posted as it comes in.

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