Above: Poarch Tribal Chairman Buford L. Rolin presents Wind Creek Wetumpka project plan rendering.
By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
WETUMPKA–On Wednesday, the Poarch Creek Indian Gaming Authority (PCIGA) announced the beginning of construction of Wind Creek Wetumpka Hotel that will be an expansion of the existing Wetumpka facility. The construction is estimated to cost $246 million and is expected to generate revenues for Elmore County by also supporting construction workers for food and lodging. The facility will resemble the Wind Creek Casino Resort in Atmore.
“This project will provide much needed jobs to Tribal Members and our neighbors in Wetumpka,” said Poarch Tribal Chairman Buford L. Rolin.
Keith Martin, Chairman of the PCI Gaming Board, said that the elders had been working on this for 25 years. He said, “We take a lot of care when we take on these projects, we want to make sure in this community that this is a quality operation that is run right.” Martin asked for the community’s input into the process to make sure it runs smoothly.
Elmore County Commissioner David Bowen said, “We are excited at the opportunity it is going to bring to the area–the job creation and the economic impact to the local community and we look forward to working with the Tribe and helping them facilitate their dream.”
The facility will be 20 stories tall and accommodate 285 guests. There will be a 90,000 square foot gaming floor and will also include a resort pool, entertainment rooms suitable for large parties and corporate events, a grill, coffee shop, snack bar, fine dining restaurant and buffet that overlook the Coosa River.
Officials project that the first floor will open 2013 and the entire resort will be completed by January 1, 2014.
The current parking deck can house 500 cars but will be expanded to a 2500 car garage.
Martin said, “We hope everybody in the state of Alabama will be proud of this project. It is not just about Poarch Creek Indians, we want it to be good neighbors to everyone. We want to work with the city and county officials.”
“It has been a vision that the other council members and I knew would happen for a while but finally it is here. This is an opportunity for the city of Wetumpka,” said Robbie McGhee, Governmental Affairs for the Tribe.
The project is anticipated to create 1200 jobs during construction alone. The casino currently employs 400 full-time employees with benefits. This expansion will employ another 600 with benefits for a total of 1,000 jobs in Elmore County. Current payroll is $67 million but upon completion will reach at least $87.5 million.
An employee of the facility spoke of how she became employed by Wind Creek four years ago. She said she started as a prep cook but now manages 18 team members who prep, cook and serve about 300 meals per 8-hour shift. She said that the employment by Wind Creek had enabled her to put her son through college.
When asked about taxes, Jay Dorris, President of PCIGA, said, “We have always paid property taxes on this land.” He said that sales tax is also collected whether it goes to the city or the tribe for providing services to the resort. He went on to say that he would assure everyone that the payroll taxes will most certainly be collected and paid.
“Great day. I have worked on this for over 6 years. For whatever reason we hit a snag but I think we have over $30 million invested now in this property. I think it is going to be the best facility in the state of Alabama. I think it will eclipse Wind Creek Atmore because of the location,” said Martin.
“This is an incredible event here today. Just last week we witnessed the significant event that happened in Mobile with the announcement for Airbus committing to build an assembly plant here and that is great. That is fantastic news, we are all excited. There are a lot of great things happening right now here in the state of Alabama,” said David Gehman, Secretary of the PCI Tribe.
He went on to say, “Alabama has risen up as a leader in the nation. We are one of the leaders now in the auto manufacturing industry and now for all my life Boeing has been way out on the West Coast up in Seattle and now all of a sudden here we have been blessed with Airbus coming to Alabama.”
Earlier last week, Airbus announced it will assemble its A320 family of aircraft at the Brookley Aeroplex project in Mobile. As part of the deal with the state of Alabama they will received $158 million in cash, tax breaks and other incentives to build a $600 million facility employing 1,000.
With monies earned and small bank financing, the Poarch Creek Indians have done this on their own without need of state help. Chamber of Commerce members, county officials and city officials attended the event but no state officials were present.
The Wind Creek project overlooks Alabama’s Coosa River. It is located on Highway 231 just 9 miles northeast of Montgomery. The architect for the project is Hnedak Bobo Group and Flintco Construction is the general contractor.