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Atmore: A future 'destination of recognition'

By By Lowell McGill
Two upstart businesses may make Atmore a "destination."
I am referring to the Rivercane shopping area and the Poarch Creek Entertainment Center.
These ventures surely will provide countless jobs for many of our residents who now must travel out of town for employment. These immaculate structures will change the "face of Atmore" for generations to come. In last week's edition of the Advance, announcement was made about a new hotel signing as the first of what is hoped to be many firms coming to the modern shopping center. This center should create it's own identity and will not jeopardize downtown Atmore as we know it.
Much praise is due to the Poarch Creeks, all the city and chamber leaders, project managers, architects, builders and advisers who are taking these two endeavors to reality. I value the work and tireless efforts of these outstanding local and area leaders. We are fortunate to have these types of people who possess leadership and entrepreneurial foresight needed for the success of this project.
The Poarch Creeks new venture compliments Rivercane. What other surrounding communities can boast of such a unique project. I have seen the architect's layout of the new Entertainment Center, which is displayed inside the current building. It depicts an ultra modern building that soars many stories high. I understand that, in talking with some of my friends who work at the center, it will contain Indian lore, a hotel, shops, elaborate restaurants and even a lake. I have not spoken with any of the Entertainment officials. I am sure when the building is completed participants and motorists on I- 65 will be overwhelmed.
Truly this interstate highway is also an asset to our community. Who knows, it may provide the artery needed for Atmore to gain related factories and supply houses associated with the huge steel mill, which will be constructed near Mobile in the not too distant future. I am sure our city leaders are looking into this possibility.
In an effort to offer objectivity to this column let me say that there are many who do not approve of wagering. This is their right and their views should be allowed to be expressed. I am offering no opinion. If I had one opinion I would say to the Entertainment Center management that you isolate restaurant and dining areas from wagering areas if you intend to market dining facilities. Some families with children will display reluctance in eating where actual wagering can be observed. This is not just my personal feeling, but I have heard it expressed by countless others in the community. Having said this let me further express thanks to you for providing the opportunity of employment to many citizens in the area.
Two things come to mind when I think of the Creek Indian project. I think back to the days when Hugh Rozelle, Chief Calvin McGhee and Lenoir Thompson paved the way for the Poarch federal recognition. I think of these two men and also of Eddie Tullis.
Eddie, in my opinion, initially identified with the Entertainment Center probably more than any other. I do not know his present role and this statement is not intended to omit the efforts of so many other Tribal members, who display equal leadership roles, which are vitally important. I am not acquainted with present Tribal leadership. I have known Eddie for many years and I suppose because of our friendship I have always found him to be very diplomatic and a great leader. Not long after I founded "The Tri City Ledger" in 1971 he and I would often talk and he told me of great things that would become a reality for the Poarch Creeks. We also talked on several occasions when I operated "The Atmore News Journal" back in the early 1980s.
And, he was right.
Speaking of the Entertainment Center I had to make a quick run over to the Mississippi coast a few days ago to finish up some work. This was just the next day after Jackson County voted down the construction of a new casino just across the Alabama state line near Pascagoula. I stopped for lunch in that town and overheard a portion of an interesting conversation by two men who were sitting at a table next to me. I could tell by the nature of their conversation they were disappointed by the vote. I got the impression these two men were highly in favor of a new casino and appeared saddened the casino was not voted in. I overheard one say, "this is not over yet, and other options are still available." I did not hear them discuss these "other options." I thought it strange since the vote was clear that those residents did not want the casino in their county. Since I could not hear the entire conversation it made me wonder what "options" they were speaking of. The two men left the restaurant before I did and I heard one of them say they were on their way to the Mobile Airport. They got into a big Cadillac and pulled away. I have no idea who they were. I just got the impression they were gentlemen of means and education.
On my way home I thought of their conversation. I wondered, had that vote passed, would a casino that close to Alabama impose a threat to the Poarch Creek's operation and futures success?
Over the last several weeks I have been concluding flood claims in Mississippi and Louisiana originated by Hurricane Katrina. In doing so I talk to many living in these states. I am amazed at the number of these people who are just now hearing, or who have previously heard of Atmore. That's why I say Atmore, within the next couple of years will become a destination. A place of recognition, if you will. This is in contrast to statements I have heard many times when I told others that I was from Atmore. They would say "Atmore, that's where the prison is-isn't it?" Well, there is nothing wrong with having the prison here. We all value its existence here. We value the many jobs it provides.
Yes, again much recognition should given the Poarch Creeks and the Atmore city leaders and planners for what they are doing to make Atmore a "destination of recognition".
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net