Tohono O’odham Develops $500M Resort Amid Controversy
The Tohono O’odham Nation is moving forward on development of a new $500-million resort and casino in the West Valley of Phoenix despite opposition from several fronts.
The tribe selected Memphis-based Hnedak Bobo Group as the lead architect firm, which has produced the initial renderings for the West Valley Resort, located near the University of Phoenix Stadium and Glendale’s entertainment district.
In addition to a large casino, which is at the heart of the controversy, the resort includes a spa, convention and meeting rooms, events center, retail space, restaurants and bars and a 3-acre enclosed atrium.
Numerous state and city of Glendale officials have spoken out against the project, including Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. In a letter released by The Arizona Republic in January, Brewer asked Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. to withdraw the application with the federal government, saying the project is inconsistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act’s restrictions on off-reservation casinos. Brewer added that the project “significantly frustrates community relationships.”
The tribe purchased the land in 2003 and is now seeking its designation as part of the land mandated by Congress to replace tribal land flooded by the Painted Rock Dam west of Gila Bend, Ariz. Built in 1960, the dam is now in disuse, but the land is off limits due to DDT contamination.
Despite the opposition, a March poll commissioned by the Tohono O’odham Nation shows support of the resort and casino runs 68% among West Valley registered voters. Also, a recent Arizona House of Representatives bill that would grant the city of Glendale the right to annex the Tohono O’odham land without consent was halted by the Arizona Senate.
“The result of this poll validates our efforts to move forward with the West Valley Resort, a project that will create 6,000 construction jobs and more than 3,000 permanent jobs once completed,” Norris says. “We remain committed to working with local communities to ensure this important economic development project moves forward.”
The tribe also filed suit last month against the U.S. Dept. of Interior for failing to finalize the site’s designation as tribal land in hopes that it would compel the department to act more quickly in taking the land into trust, thus freeing it for casino development.