PCI Gaming Authority announces plans for Wind Creek Wetumpka casinoPublished 11:59am Monday, July 16, 2012
By Peggy Blackburn, The Wetumpka Herald
Exactly six years after the Poarch Band of Creek Indians postponed planned construction of a hotel and casino complex in Wetumpka, the project is off the drawing board and on its way to becoming a reality. And the end result will be even bigger than was originally planned.
PCI Gaming Authority (PCIGA) announced Wednesday work was beginning immediately on Wind Creek Wetumpka – which will include a 20-story hotel tower, 90,000 square foot gaming floor, resort pool, entertainment rooms and more.
The project will cost an estimated $246 million.
“We’re excited to announce this project,” said Tribal Chairman Buford L. Rolin. “Wetumpka is one of the most beautiful parts of our state, and it is an important part of our history.
“This will be a really nice resort,” he added. “But what pleases me most is that it will offer new jobs.”
According to PCIGA President Jay Dorris, the expanded operation will employ 600 additional full-time workers when complete, bringing the total number of full-time employees at Wind Creek Wetumpka to 1,000 or more.
“Our payroll today (for all PIC Gaming operations) is $67 million annually,” he said. “When this is completed, it will add another $20 million and we will be providing jobs for more than 2,000 Alabama residents. And these are great jobs with good benefits.”
Dorris said a portion of the complex should be open by October 2013 and all parts of the operation should be complete by “New Year’s 2014.”
The hotel and casino will be located on the riverbank overlooking the Coosa, north of the existing parking deck.
The hotel will include 285 rooms and suites, all overlooking the river.
The parking deck will be expanded significantly, increasing from a 500-car capacity to 2,500.
The casino’s gaming floor will feature more than 2,500 electronic gaming machines.
Wind Creek Wetumpka will also feature several dining options – a fine dining restaurant, a grill, a coffee shop, a snack bar and a buffet overlooking the river.
In addition, rooms suitable for large parties and corporate events will be available.
Cody Williamson, property manager at the Wetumpka operation, said he thinks the expansion will be beneficial in many ways.
“This will be a great project for the Tribe, for Wetumpka and for Elmore County,” he said.
“I’ve been part of the recent redevelopment plan efforts in Wetumpka and there has been a lot of talk about needing a catalyst project,” he said. “We want this to be the catalyst to bring life to all the dreams people have been discussing for this city.”
Former Tribal Chairman Eddie Tullis said Wednesday’s announcement was the fulfillment of a vision of long-standing importance to both him and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
“A lot of people worked for a long time to make this happen,” he said. “I’m very excited to see it become reality after so many years.”
Martin said it’s difficult to calculate the immediate and long-term impacts of the project.
“It will take years to figure out the economic impact,” he said. “It’s going to be huge. This is not just about the Poarch Band, but about the area. This project will be the most beautiful one we’ve done.”
“We have seen Wind Creek in Atmore have a very positive ripple effect on the economy,” said Rolin. “We look forward to seeing other businesses in the Wetumpka community grow and prosper because of this development.”
The property where the new construction will be located was deeded to the Poarch Band in August 1980.
Traditionally called Hickory Ground, the area was the site of a historic Muscogee Creek town.
Development of the property began with an initial electronic bingo operation opened in November 2001. The playing area was expanded in August 2002, then around-the clock operation began in November 2003.
In March 2004, the Poarch Band purchased additional property adjacent to reservation land – including River Oaks Apartments. Some of those apartment buildings were demolished to make way for a parking deck. Plans for a hotel, casino, restaurant, lounge, retail outlets, cultural center, museum and memorial garden were unveiled in May 2006 and later postponed.
In 2007, Love Lane between U.S. Highway 231 and South Main Street was widened and resurfaced, and new turn lanes installed on U.S. Highway 231. The work was funded by PCI and completed that December.
The most recent previous construction at the site was completed in 2008 – n expansion that nearly doubled the number of machines available for patrons, and added a large buffet and a bandstand.