The Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise announced Tuesday that it has selected a construction team for the long-embattled, $400 million, 1.2 million-sq-ft West Valley Resort and Casino which prompted U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake to introduce a companion bill to an earlier House-passed measure that would prohibit the construction of any new Indian gaming operation on unincorporated land in the metro Phoenix area that is not contiguous to an existing Indian reservation.
According to a press release issued by Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, Hunt Construction Group and PENTA Building Group will perform the construction and Rider Levett Bucknall and Summit Project Management will jointly serve as the owner’s representative.
“Despite the opposition’s latest efforts(McCain and Flake’s Senate companion bill), we are confident that Congress, like so many others, will recognize the incredible benefits the West Valley Resort will provide to the region and all of Arizona,” said Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris, Jr. in a statement Wednesday.
The companion bill has not yet been scheduled to be heard by the Senate. Congress is scheduled for a recess for the entire month of August. The Tohono O’odham nation did not answer about whether the construction team would begin work on the site in the interim.
Hunt Construction Group has a big presence in Arizona — it also built the University of Phoenix Stadium up the street from the casino site along 91st and Northern avenues — and PENTA is well known as a casino and resort contractor.
“We are proud to have assembled one of the finest construction teams in Arizona, one that can handle a project of this massive scale. The core tools are now in place to create jobs and economic opportunity the West Valley has been waiting for. That’s why we are committed to hiring local firms and subcontractors as we move forward into construction and beyond,” said Andy Asselin, CEO of Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise in the release.
Upon completion, the facility will include a casino with a 75,000-sq-ft gaming floor, a 400-room resort hotel, restaurants, spas and many other amenities.
“We are very excited to be involved in this incredible project, which will deliver an enormous economic boost to the West Valley and the entire state. PENTA and RLB/Summit bring exceptional expertise to our team and we look forward to working together, along with other Arizona contractors, to construct a world class facility the entire West Valley can be proud of,” said Robert Hart, vice president of Hunt Construction Group said in a release.
PENTA referred questions to Hunt, who is leading the public discussion on this project.
The latest developments continue the ongoing saga that started more than three decades ago. The southern Arizona tribe unveiled they had purchased land on unincorporated lands in west Phoenix and planned on building the resort and casino in 2009. The purchase and designation as tribal land was allowed by the 1986 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Replacement Lands Act. That bill was designed to remedy the loss of tribal lands after Painted Rock Dam inadvertently flooded some tribal lands. McCain was a sponsor of that bill.
McCain said in a statement Tuesday that part of the reason he and Flake filed the companion bill was because the 1986 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Replacement Lands Act was not done with the knowledge and foresight that it would or could be used to build a gaming venue.
“As one of the authors of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Replacement Lands Act, Congress did not envision Indian gaming on the kinds of lands involved in the West Valley issue,” McCain and Flake said in a statement.
Last week, leaders the Gila River and Salt River — which currently operate the most popular casinos in the area — appeared before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in a last ditch attempt to stop construction on the Tohono O’odham site. A week prior, on July 15, the Glendale city council approved the plans after five years of opposition when a member changed her longstanding vote against it.