Gaming and Golf
By Art and Heather McCafferty
"The train stopped in Sioux City. We raised our windows to look out. The white people were yelling at us and making a great noise, and they started to throw money at us. We little fellows began to gather up the money, but the larger boys told us not to take it, but to throw it back at them. They told us if we took the money, the white people would put our names in a big book. We did not have sense enough then to understand that the white people had a way of discovering what our names were. However, we threw all the money back at them. At this, the white people laughed and threw more money at us."
(Quoted from "My People the Sioux" by Luther Standing Bear, a Lakota activist and noted American author, in describing his trip to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in the 1870's.)
Standing Bear would not be too surprised that 125 years later people are still throwing money at them. However, the difference today is that they are keeping it. And, they are the ones that are putting names in not only in big books but powerful client databases as well. Why? It's called "Gaming" and it's big business.
In Michigan, those who visited the Soaring Eagle for the first time will no doubt recall how overwhelmed they were when they walked into the hotel complex. The richness of the lobby, coupled with the exquisite Native American decor, produces a very esthetic experience. The beauty and sensitivity of Indian Art have also impressed others who have strolled through the Art Gallery at the Kewadin Casino in Sault Ste. Marie. Still others have been blown away by the light show in Escanaba's New Chip In's Island Resort Casino. When those long dark winter nights hit Escanaba this year, people will be coming in there just for the light fix.
But behind the façade of glitter that most see, there is also a seriousness of purpose and a sense of responsibility by the leadership who control the Indian's newly found wealth. The tribes care deeply about the welfare of their people and many have translated that care into building new health facilities on their reservations. They care about the education of their people and many plans are underway to expand the scope of their involvement. For example, Bay Mills Community College was one of the first online community colleges in this country. They have a national presence through their development of online courses. (you can see them at www.bmcc.edu) They also direct their resources at conservation of resources and the environment. These are areas they have been historically involved in.
Indian staff also spends a lot of time writing for grants to aid in their efforts. Their Circle of Flight program, launched in 1991 has distributed 4.3 million dollars for waterfowl/wetlands enhancement projects. The Great Lakes Fishery Trust, launched in 1996, is deploying monies to rehabilitate Lake Trout, Lake Sturgeon and other fish populations. Finally, the Michigan Legislature passed the 1996 Farm Bill that introduced several new programs to provide financial assistance to landowners to implement conservation plans on their property. Some of these plans included Native American Environmental Quality Incentives Wetland Reserve, Forestry Incentives and Wildlife Habitat Incentives programs.
Kings Club Casino, located just west of Brimley, was the first Indian gaming facility in North America. The resultant success of that facility fueled the explosion of gaming facilities throughout our state and the country. The building boom will spike again with the opening of the three temporary casinos in Detroit this year, with permanent homes being established in the next millennium.
The following represents an update of "Gaming and Golf" at the various casinos in Michigan and border states:
You will find a pleasant gaming facility and lodging complex that has 40 rooms. The golf needs are serviced by L'Anse golf course. It is a nine-hole course that never gets the chance to rest in the short summers there.
Jeff Parker, chairman of the Bay Mills Tribe, not only can lay claim to the first casino in the United States, but can also claim the first golf course built on an Indian reservation. Wild Bluff is the latest and thus far the best course from golf course designer Mike Husby. Judy Mason is the golf professional at the facility.
Bay Mills Casino and Resort, built on the water, offers gamers and golfers a beautiful place to stay and play. www.4baymills.com
This modest casino services the needs of those gamers located around the Munising area. Pictured Rocks GC is a terrific golf course that added a spectacular new nine a couple of years ago.
Chip In's Island Casino and Resort is a visual feast. The resort boasts 113 rooms, banquet facilities and a heated beach. Just completed, this upscale resort facility is starting to put together golf packages now. The golf inventory includes nearby Highland GC and a little farther away, Gladstone, Tri-Valley and Terrace Bluff. www.chipincasino.
The players of Hessel Ridge will find a Kewadin Casino about a driver and two-iron distance from the course. In addition, the airport is also close by. According to Joan Gilchrist, of Hessel Ridge, they have a variety of lodging and golf packages in the area. Of note is a new Comfort Inn in the area.
Stacey Dillard of the Marquette CVB indicates that the Marquette area has plenty of golf for the gaming crowd. They can choose from Marquette Country Club, Chocolay Downs, Red Fox Run or Wawonowin. On the lodging side you can call the CVB office to get additional information. We have one recommendation, the Landmark Inn. The Landmark, formerly the Hotel Northland, has been brought back to its original 1930's grandeur. You will find marble floors, brass hand railings, antique fixtures and furniture. You will find nicely appointed rooms and they also have suites with fireplaces and Jacuzzis.
Yet another branch casino of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, this modest casino can refer golfers to the Indian Lake GC, which has a new Mike Husby nine opening in late September or early next year.
Sault Ste. Marie
The biggest player in the Upper Peninsula is the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians. They own casinos in Hessel, Christmas, St. Ignace and Manistique. Their lodging facilities include: The Kewadin Hotel and Convention Center in the Sault; Kewadin Inns at St. Ignace, Manistique, and Mackinaw City, and a Best Western at St. Ignace.
Dan Donarski and his staff at the Sault Ste. Marie CVB will assist you in setting up your gaming and golf holiday. They have a nice variety of courses to choose from: Sault Ste. Marie CC, Tanglewood, Kincheloe Memorial, The Rock at Woodmoor, Munoscong and Wild Bluff. www.kewadin.com
St. Ignace is a neat little town just across the bridge. Most downstaters tend to stay on the Mackinaw City side before heading up north, but they could save themselves 5-10% on lodging that could help them finance some golf or gaming. There are a number of new hotel properties in St. Ignace and a sense of vitality to the town. Golfers will find the nine hole St. Ignace CC a welcome oasis, or they can play nearby Mackinaw Club, Hessel Ridge or go north to Kincheloe and Wild Bluff.
Of course, golfers have the allure of Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel with its spectacular Jewel GC as well as the historic Wawashkamo, to consider in their plans.
Lac Vieux Desert Golf Course is a delightful new nine hole course that is barely a year old. The course was designed by Wisconsin's team of Mattingly-Keuhn. They have done an excellent job on this nine-hole course and they do have plans for an additional nine when the demand is there. Golfers will find an attractive casino with modern lodging facilities at the adjoining AmericInn. Gogebic CC, one of the older courses in the U.P., is also nearby.
As if the things were not exploding enough in Mackinaw City, Brad Jones of the CVB, indicates that ground for a new casino for the Mackinaw City area will be broken soon. Mackinaw City has begun to heavily market Hessel Ridge, The Rock, Mackinaw Club, Kincheloe, Chestnut Valley and Hidden River Golf and Casting Club. There is also nearby Mackinac Island.
The newest casino in Michigan will open on August 1, according to Little River Casino Chairman Bob Guenhardt. The complex will employ upwards of 400 people. There are no immediate plans for lodging, but Guenhardt did indicate that the land was developed in such a way as to allow a golf course to be constructed on it.
The Manistee National Golf & Resort is nearby and features The Inn at Manistee, a 42-room facility and two courses, Cutters Ridge, a new Jerry Matthews course that will open in late September or early next year, and Canthooke Valley, formerly known as Cobi Pines. New Manistee National pro, Doug Bell, will give you all the help you need. Other close by courses are The Heathlands, County Highlands, Manistee G & CC, Chestnut Hills and the spectacular Arcadia Bluffs.
The Michigan flagship is Soaring Eagle and if you have not visited there, do it this summer. They are the second biggest Native American casino in the world and employ over 4,000 people, according to Soaring Eagle VP, David Staddon. Staddon came to the casino via his role in Indian Affairs with Central Michigan University. He had worked with every tribe in the state in that role. He indicated that the Soaring Eagle wants to present an Indian experience in a tasteful way and not add to the stereotype role that they have been put into. The casino's motif is one of understated elegance.
John Greenslit, Sales Manager, Corporate & Incentive for Soaring Eagle, indicates that the casino is holding its cards very close to the vest on whether it will build a new course or perhaps buy one. He feels the decision will be made in the not too distant future. Currently, they satisfy their guests' needs by working primarily with the Pohlcat. They have a great relationship with both Mike and John Brehm of the Pohlcat and do quite a bit of cooperative business. "They are very professional and a delight to work with," said Greenslit. Greenslit also indicated that the casino sends many of their clients to area courses such as Eagle Glen, The Emerald, Riverwood and St. Ives.
Ed Kelbel, Jr. of The Emerald, indicated that they are getting a lot of play from gamers heading North on US 27. "They either play on their way up or way down. Frankly, it has been a very good business for us, and they are all new players we would not normally get," said Kelbel.
Traverse Bay Area Casino Resorts
The big news at the Leelanau Sands Casino, "Where Mother Nature Meets Lady Luck", is the new entertainment complex that started up in May. Howie Mandell provided the opening night fireworks to a sold out casino crowd and issued in a new benchmark in TC entertainment. The new show room at the casino brings into sharp focus the mantra of Mark Belanger of Traverse Bay Casinos, when he says that they are not just in the gaming business but the entertainment business. Belanger previously worked at Walt Disney and embodies the quality of high calibre executives that the gaming casinos are hiring.
There is plenty of terrific golf in the area, with Matheson Greens, the new Leelanau Club, Mistwood, King's Challenge, Dunes GC and Veronica Valley on the Leelanau Peninsula and other TC courses close by. They also work with 32 different lodging properties in the area.
Turtle Creek Casino located on M-72 just east of the Grand Traverse Resort, brought in Wayne Newton last year to work his magic. The casino partners up with nearby Grand Traverse Resort and High Pointe. Issac Tafelsky and Sarah Puroll of High Pointe feel that the casino player and golfer have merged nicely in the area. "We work with the casino in setting up tee times for their clients. It is safe to say that they are bringing quite a few golfers to our course," said Tafelsky.
Of special note this year is the Special Olympics Celebrity Golf Classic that will be hosted by the Traverse Bay Casino Resorts and held at Shanty Creek Resort this August 19th. There will be a grand prize trip for two to St. Andrews Golf Course in Scotland and the possibility to win a $100,000 for a Hole-in-One, according to event spokesman, Travis Bailey. For further information, contact Travis Bailey at 800-922-2946.
The Blue Chip Casino in nearby Michigan City, Indiana has been in the Play, Play and Stay business of Golf and Gaming for a couple of years, according to Stacey Harris. She noted a study that indicates that the demographics of golfers and gamers are very close. "We are targeting basically the same person and the addition of golf to our gaming brochures and other advertising makes a whole lot of sense."
Area golf options include Whittaker Woods, Island Hills, Lake Michigan Hills, Pipestone and Blackberry Patch.
Big Bucks Bingo
Ojibwa Casino Resort
Bay Mills Casino and Resort
Kings Club Casino
Kewadin Casino Christmas
Chip-In Island Resort & Casino
Kewadin Casino Hessel
Little River Casino
Kewadin Casino Manistique
Mount Pleasant Casino
Saint Ignace Casino
Sault Ste. Marie Casino
Kewadin Vegas Casino
Suttons Bay Casinos
Leelanau Sands Casino
Leelanau Super Gaming Palace
Lac Vieux Desert Casino Resort
Turtle Creek Casino
Blue Chip Casino
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