Mar 252011

By Tammy Gray-Searles —

Twin Arrows Casino has moved from concept to construction with a formal groundbreaking held March 21.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim were both on hand for the ceremony, with Shelly noting that construction will take a little over a year. The casino is expected to open on July 1, 2012. Actual construction work is set to begin this April.

The casino is being built just east of the Twin Arrows exit on the north side of Interstate 40. Property near the freeway was placed into trust by the Navajo Nation so that the casino could be located on tribal land.

“The size of the Navajo Nation was increased by 405 acres with the purchase of the Twin Arrows parcel,” Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise CEO Bob Winter said. “Placing it into trust was a concerted effort, and many people, agencies and tribal governmental representatives worked long and hard to make today possible.”

Once complete, the casino and adjoining resort-style hotel are expected to employ nearly 800 people. Long-term plans call for the resort to include a spa, conference center, golf course and other attractions. The facility is being touted as the Navajo Nation’s flagship casino.

“This is our largest casino,” President Shelly noted. “It is all part of the Shelly-Jim administration’s plan to employ our Navajo people and advance toward economic prosperity.”

Construction of the casino is expected to generate nearly 1,000 short-term jobs. The total cost of the project is estimated at $150 million.

Water for the casino and resort will come from an onsite well. Two water wells were already located on the casino property, and the Navajo Nation has spent $600,000 drilling a 12,500-foot deep well, according to tribal officials.

Shelly noted that the success of the casino would bring financial benefits both to the tribe and to nearby cities and towns that rely on tourism. He pointed out that it would also help the tribe reduce its high unemployment rate.

“It is our vision that 800 families will have a steady income from an estimated $23 million payroll,” he said. “Twin Arrows Casino Resort will bring much needed revenue to this part of the Navajo Nation, and we will continue to chip away at our 50 percent unemployment rate.”

Approximately 300 people attended the formal groundbreaking ceremony and celebration.