PCI breaks ground Friday on conference center

Published 5:07 pm Monday, November 7, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
The first small chunks of earth were moved Friday morning in preparation for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians' (PCI) conference center construction as members of the Tribal Council dug their golden shovels into the ground during a groundbreaking ceremony.
Early last month, Tribal Council Treasurer and PCI CFO Arthur Mothershed announced that plans for the first phase of the Tribe's massive casino development, which is made up of the construction of the 20,000 square foot conference center, had been approved. In addition to the conference center, 600 additional games will be added to the Creek Entertainment Center.
"We are excited to have the construction of our new facility get underway," Mothershed said. "We are particularly pleased that this new development will have a positive economic boost for our entire region."
Once completed, the expansion will result in more than 1,100 electronic games, several of which were unveiled Thursday night to customers and to those business owners and community leaders on hand following the groundbreaking ceremony.
"We have all worked very hard on these improvements," PCI Gaming General Manager Kitty Stuart said. "We want to make sure our customers have the very best gaming experience possible."
The new games are being housed in the new gaming room located inside the Creek Bingo Palace, which also held its grand opening on Friday.
"This is a big day for the tribe," Tribal Chairman Fred L. McGhee said. "We've been waiting on this day for a long time."
The cost of the conference center will be between $5 million and $6 million. Mothershed said the Tribe's casino construction in Wetumpka went smoothly and he expects to see more of the same with the Atmore project.
"We've had a lot of success up north with being able to get buildings built," Mothershed said in a previous interview. "The standard we put ourselves to is 90 days. We've had a lot of success once we've got the pad built, 90 days later; we've been able to open the doors. The storms, not just Hurricane Katrina, but Hurricane Rita as well and even Dennis to some degree before that, have delayed the availability and delivery of materials and that could slow down the process somewhat, but that's something we're obviously not going to complain about. We would love to have it complete by Christmas or New Years, but if it runs a couple of weeks into January, we're not going to complain."
The new gaming room, which opened Thursday evening, has created 20 new jobs at the Creek Entertainment Center. The conference center building is expected to generate 50-60 additional jobs within the next three months.
Martin Construction, a local Indian-owned and operated company, won the bid through a competitive bidding process and will be responsible for construction of the conference center. The estimated completion date for the first phase is late January 2006.
In addition to the conference center construction, several renovations will be made to the current Bingo Palace.
Mothershed anticipates that phase two will begin shortly following the completion of the conference center construction. Phase two of the construction project includes plans for a new hotel, casino and parking garage. While those are being built, the conference center will house the Tribe's gaming operation.
"We hope the second phase will follow shortly behind the first," Mothershed said in a recent interview. "We're going to be able to finance the first phase internally, but the second phase is going to be require outside financing because the scope of this may run $120 to $150 million total. It's a pretty big investment on our part and obviously we don't have those kind of funds laying around."
The Poarch Creek Tribe's other plans for the 19-acre site include a 45,000 square foot casino, a 225- to 250-room hotel and parking garages, which will all make up the second phase. The conference center would tie into both the hotel and casino.
Additional phases of the project will follow, which include room for more than 14 retail establishments with the option of several bigger retail stores and an amusement area, which was represented by a water park on the artist rendered drawing of the overall project. The Tribe also would like to construct a 27-hole golf course on the land north of Interstate 65 owned by the city.

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