'Twin Arrows is on schedule' says Navajo Gaming Enterprises CEO
By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times
WINDOW ROCK, November 1, 2012
(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)
N avajo Speaker of the Council Johnny Naize probably described it best after he received a tour of the new Navajo casino being built at Twin Arrows.
Naize as well as about a dozen other tribal and county officials, as well as representatives of the Navajo Times, were given a special behind-the-scenes tour of the facility Friday, some five months before it is expected to be completed.
The construction of $130 million facility was on schedule, according to Bob Winter, CEO of the Navajo Gaming Enterprise.
The outside walls of the casino and hotel have been completed and workers are now in the process of converting the inside into what is expected to be one of the most elaborate casinos in the Southwest.
Much of the inside now is filled with cables, dirt and concrete but in the next five months, the enterprise and the construction crews plan to convert this into a vivid display of color and splendor, far surpassing what the other three Navajo casinos have.
The theme of the new casino will be the four Navajo worlds. Both on the outside and inside walls of the hotel, the designers have created unique designs promoting Navajo weaving. Inside, as people enter, the plans are to stock the walls with Navajo paintings and Navajo crafts.
The initial investment in Navajo artwork to grace the walls of the casino, said Winter, will be between $500,000 and $700,000 and a special committee has been set up to accept applications from Navajo artists who want their works to be a part of the new casino.
The committee plans to draw names of those artists whose work are found to be acceptable. This gives every artist that is approved by the committee an equal chance to have his or her work purchased, said Winter.
And then, as the casino makes money, a portion of the profits will be used to continue purchasing artwork.
Winter said another committee, all made up of members of the tribe, was responsible for every aspect of the design of the buildings and the use of the Navajo motifs throughout the facility.
Speaking of money, Winter said a successful casino will mean millions of dollars in profits going to the Navajo Nation. When asked about how much this would be by one of the people on the tour, he predicted the tribe could see between $200 million and $300 million in profits during its first eight years of operation.
This is in addition to the hundreds of Navajos who will be hired during the construction process. Currently, 85 percent of all the construction workers have been Navajo, according to one figure given on the tour.
As many as 800 people will be employed when the casino and hotel opens and more than 90 percent of these are expected to be Navajo. Winter estimated the annual payroll at the casino will be around $47 million.
There will be all sorts of food courts and bars in the casino, which will be open 24 hours a day. There will be a sports bar with enough big screen televisions to allow the playing of every sporting event that is on.
There is even a space set aside to display automobiles that the casino plans to purchase from car dealers in the Flagstaff area to use for drawings or prizes.
Another section of the casino floor has been set aside for a nightclub and lounge that the casino plans to build during phase two and is expected to open by next November.
The casino will have 120 slot machines and table games like blackjack. There will, however, be no bingo, roulette or crap – the last two because Arizona state law doesn't allow them even though, said Winter, craps probably has the best odds in favor of the player of any of the table games.
Although it can be seen from I-40, it's located about a mile from the interstate and Winter said there will be no efforts to entice truckers along the interstate to stop on by and try their luck.
In fact, the roads to and from the casino are not strong enough for semi-trucks and although the casino parking lot will be able to fit 3,000 cars, no spaces are being allocated to trucks.
"The truckers won't be coming here," said Winter. "They will be going further east where we plan to build a casino on Pinta Road."
What this casino is being built for is the high rollers, the people who really want to spend a lot of money gambling and having a good time. A special room will be set aside for the high rollers and VIPs, where they will be able to gamble with no distractions.
Plans also include the purchase of as many as 20 rooms nightly to house the high rollers at the casino's expense to entice them to stay longer. There are pools and spas within the hotel to pamper them and both the hotel and the casino apparently will spare no expense to keep them happy and gambling.
After all, the name of the facility is the Twin Arrows Casino and Resort.
Winter said the prices at the restaurants will be figured out later by the restaurant management when they look at what other area restaurants are charging. The same is true of the prices for the rooms at the hotel.
While it is geared for high rollers, the casino is expected to draw people from Flagstaff and the nearby Navajo communities and Winter said efforts will also be made to encourage area people who don't like to gamble to come in and just enjoy the restaurant facilities.
"We can't wait for it be completed," Naize said after he took the tour.
Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler, who also took the tour, agreed, saying she thought the casino would bring an economic boom to the area because of all of the people who would be hired or would be shopping in Flagstaff, which is just 12 miles from the casino.
She said she also expected to see people, who came to the casino to gamble and eat, attracted to businesses in the area as well.