On September 18 2012 the Tsuu T’ina Nation announced a $65 million expansion of their Grey Eagle Casino facility, including a hotel and entertainment complex.
The plans include a previously announced gaming-floor and restaurant expansion for the casino, and for the first time a 4.5 star, 178-room hotel, plus a 2000 seat entertainment centre with conference space and banquet facilities was announced.
Construction is set to begin immediately, with the gaming expansion due to open in Spring of 2013. The entertainment complex is due for completion in later 2013, and the hotel is to open in the fall of 2014. The ground-breaking ceremony took place after the announcement. (More on long-term plans for the area can be found here, and more on the casino can be found here)
Although variations of an expanded casino project have been planned for many years, solid plans for a more limited casino expansion were made public in April, when the Tsuu T’ina and Casino management held an open house. The open house only covered the changes that were being proposed to the gaming floor and food-services areas of the existing casino building; no other plans regarding the expansion were indicated. Several questions about ancillary projects, specifically a hotel, were raised, but suggestions that other building projects might form a part of the casino expansion were denied.
Ward 11 Alderman Brian Pincott responded to the most recent announcement with concern about access to an expanded (and presumably more-visited) casino complex. He also reiterated a long-standing City position that access to future Tsuu T’ina developments should come from more suitable access from the west, not the current intersection at 37th street. He stated:
“Access to this site has always been anticipated to be from the west (i.e. from Glenmore Trail & Highway 8) and the current entrance on 37th is a temporary one. The infrastructure in place at 37th, the entrance and the roundabout, were never intended to be permanent. Whether there is a ring road or not, the only real means of accessing the location with those kinds of anticipated traffic volumes must be from the west.”
“While, I fully support the Tsuu T’ina Nation and their plans for economic development, diversification and autonomy, just like any developer they need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to support their plans. The existing infrastructure cannot support the expansion of the casino and that deficiency must be addressed prior to development.”
RING ROAD NEGOTIATIONS
At the press conference, Chief Sanford Big Plume stated that he was ‘very encouraged’ by the progress of a new ring road deal being worked on, which he stated fits what the nation had been asking for. He also stated that “It’s been a pleasure working with a group who will listen to what we want”, referring to Provincial officials including Transportation Minister Ric McIver. McIver later stated in an interview with the Calgary Herald “We feel like we’re making progress but it’s not done until it’s done… We have a good relationship with the chief and council. We’ve been talking in good faith and obviously we’re hopeful at some point things will progress.”
It remains to be seen how the new Casino development will affect neighbouring communities, or indeed the ongoing ring road negotiations.