Tag Archives: Derrick Watchman


Navajo Nation focuses on first casino in Arizona

Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort, the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise’s first casino in Arizona, is expected to be a major economic engine for the Flagstaff area.

“Twin Arrows will create a new benchmark in gaming entertainment while improving the economic health and prosperity of the Navajo Nation,” said Derrick Watchman, chief executive officer of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise. “As northern Arizona’s premier destination casino resort, Twin Arrows will create approximately 800 full-time jobs with an annual payroll of $34 million, including salaries and benefits.”

Az Business caught up with Watchmen before the 267,000-square-foot facility opened over Memorial Day weekend to get his thoughts about Northern Arizona’s hottest new spot.

Az Business: What has been your biggest challenge opening the casino?
Derrick Watchman: This project has been going on for five years, from ideas and concepts to financing and securing land, but there really hasn’t been any one big obstacle. We’re shorthanded on employees. Each employee has to be licensed. With three other casinos, there is a lot of turnover, as there is with all restaurants and in retail. We had challenges securing money. I was hired to secure financing, but about that time (2008 and 2009), the market crashed. But, we convinced the tribe that we were a really good investment. Other challenges? We hit rock-bottom — literally. At groundbreaking. It was limestone. There are only a few big rock [demolishing companies] in the country so we had to secure them. The rock you see around here, around the lobby and hotel, is part of the land.

AB: How does Twin Arrows reflect the Navajo Nation?
DW: When we started development, we identified a cultural committee. They worked with the architects and decided how to incorporate Navajo elements. The chandelier in the rotunda is actually representational of the four levels of worlds we believe in. Each hotel depicts the four worlds of the Navajo. We commissioned 33 different, very well-known Navajo artists. They put in their vision. You’ll see depictions of Navajo beliefs, creatures, animals, plant life and different directions. Our nation is known for mutton stew and fry bread, too, which is served in the casino food court.

AB: What can visitors expect?
DW: Our goal is to be a four-diamond resort. The amenities in the rooms are all geared to four-star ratings. When someone comes to Twin Arrows, we want them to say, “Wow.” We want to be a great food venue. We have the latest and greatest slot machines. Our poker room has 12 tables. We plan on having tournaments. We want folks to stay here, have meetings here, and have fun. I’ve heard the term “oasis in the desert.” We want to be that.

AB: Why did you pick that particular location for its first Arizona casino?
DW: We’re next to Flagstaff and the Indian Reservation – right where it stops. We’re also on Route 66, a historic route, and on the way out or into Flagstaff and Winslow. It’s an ideal location.


Navajo officials may expand casino alcohol use

Navajo gaming officials want to make it possible for people at the tribe’s Arizona casino to drink alcohol while they’re gambling.

Tribal law permits alcohol sales and consumption only in casino restaurants.

A bill moving through the Navajo Nation Council would allow drinks to be taken onto the casino floor.

Derrick Watchman is the chief executive of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise. He says expanding areas where alcohol can be consumed would make the Twin Arrows casino near Flagstaff more competitive with other Arizona casinos.

The expansion wouldn’t carry over to the Navajo Nation’s casinos in New Mexico.

Alcohol is a touchy subject on the Navajo Nation, where the sale and consumption largely is banned.

Watchman expects the discussion over the bill to include the pervasive social ills of alcoholism.


Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort Opens Memorial Weekend

The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (NNGE), announced that the grand opening of its Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort, located along I-40, exit 219, just east of Flagstaff, Ariz., will take place May 24, 2013. Grand opening events throughout Memorial weekend will highlight rich Navajo traditions while showcasing the property’s state-of-the art gaming, luxurious resort accommodations, fine dining and culturally infused architecture.

The 267,000-square-foot facility showcases Navajo culture and features commissioned Navajo artists’ original paintings and other artworks. The structure was designed by the Friedmutter Group of Las Vegas – working with Navajo tribal members – and built by Hunt Construction Group.

“Twin Arrows will create a new benchmark in gaming entertainment while improving the economic health and prosperity of the Navajo Nation,” said Derrick Watchman, chief executive officer of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise. “As northern Arizona’s premier destination casino resort, Twin Arrows will create approximately 800 full-time jobs with an annual payroll of $34 million, including salaries and benefits.”

Phase one of the $230 million facility includes 1,089 slot machines, 18 table games and 12 poker tables, live Keno, a five-story hotel with 90 rooms and suites 16,000 square foot banquet and conference center, fully equipped fitness center, heated indoor pool and six distinct dining concepts. The casino will operate 24 hours per day, seven days a week. The resort also offers 24-hour complimentary valet parking featuring a unique “Valet Express” mobile phone service system.

Six Distinct Dining Options
Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort offers an extensive variety of food and beverage options – sure to please every palate. Choose from casual eateries and a sports bar to fine dining and award-wining wines. Resort guests also have the option for in-room dining service 24 hours a day.

·      Zenith Steakhouse: Zenith Steakhouse is Twin Arrow’s flagship restaurant. Its exhibition kitchen, fireplace and menu put a progressive twist on the traditional. Zenith serves the highest quality meats and sustainable seafood paired with seasonal and regional produce to create exquisite steaks, chops, fish and shellfish entrees. Zenith also serves handcrafted cocktails and 250 of the worlds’ finest wines.

* The high nest of the eagle inspires the steakhouse design. Stone walls evoke the cliffs where eagles build their nests. Sculptural birch branches create intimate dining zones and custom light fixtures are woven from silver branches in the style of eagle nests. A Hogan ceiling is also replicated at the entry way portal.

·      Arrows Sports Bar: The sports bar offers a wide selection of local, regional and international beers as well as appetizers and entrees – including spicy wings, loaded nachos, steak and cheese fries, signature burgers, big-bowl salads and knife-and-fork sandwiches. The bar is surrounded by 19 large-screen HD TVs and a state-of-the-art sound system.

*The Sports Bar honors the legacy of traditional Navajo warriors. The crossed arrows are a symbol of peace and welcome in a home and recall the trials of the Locust – who were the first to enter the fourth world as couriers to the rest of the animals and people. Traditional bow patterns, arrow stripes, and the geometric designs of chief blankets are also featured.

·      Four Elements Café: The café offers a contemporary all-day dining menu, featuring a rich variety of dining options with a southwestern flair. Breakfast favorites include the three egg white omelet, buttermilk Navajo pancakes, skillets, baked sweet breads and Scottish smoked salmon. Throughout the rest of the day guests can choose from an extensive variety of salads, sandwiches, signature burgers, steaks, chops, seafood and desserts.

* The cafe is designed around a color and material palette of the elements in Navajo (Sky, Earth, Water, Fire and Air). The landscape’s topography is also rendered in decorative ceiling treatments.

·      The Reef, Seafood Bar: The Reef is a true seafood bar featuring exciting exhibition-style cooking. Menu favorites include freshly shucked oysters, oyster shooters, pasta, chowders and stews. The chef will also create specialty dishes upon request.

* The Seafood Bar is a tribute to the White Shell Woman and her house in the west on the shimmering water. Colors of blue suggest the beautiful ocean that surrounded her home. A sparkling bar top has integral white shell embedded within. Metals in soft patinas accent surfaces around the open-action kitchen.

·      Food Court: The Food Court offers a variety of ethnic and seasonal cuisine including authentic Navajo fry bread tacos, mutton stew and green chili pork stew. Traditional options including burger and fries, deli sandwiches, stir fry vegetable lo mein and other Asian-style cuisine are also available.

·      Coffee Bar: The Coffee Bar brews Peet’s Coffee daily and offers a variety of other made-to-order cold coffees, teas and seasonal beverages. Bottled soft drinks, energy drinks, fresh baked goods, parfaits and grab-n-go salads and sandwiches are also provided.

*Cultural design integration
(Menus available upon request)

“Ya at’eeh. We welcome Arizona residents and tourists to experience our world-class gaming and array of dining options this summer,” said Maureen Curley, chairwoman of the Board of Directors for the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise. “We are committed to building business opportunities for the Navajo Nation as we provide an economic boost to the entire region and put Navajo people to work.”

Interior and exterior designs, lighting, colors and art installations incorporate the Four Worlds from the Navajo Creation and Emergence Story. Additionally, the basket weave pattern – to the importance of weaving in Navajo culture – can be seen on the exterior of the resort as well as in subtle interior details throughout the casino, restaurants and guest rooms.

Twin Arrows is the fourth casino of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise. More information on Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TwinArrowsAZ.

Derrick Watchman, Bob Winter, Raymond Etticy

Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise CEO Winter Resigns

Bob Winter, Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (NNGE) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), announced today he will resign from his position effective January 1, 2013.  NNGE Chief Financial Officer Derrick Watchman will be named CEO by the NNGE Board of Directors upon Winter’s transition.

Winter, who has served as CEO since May 2007, decided to leave his position as CEO for the NNGE in order to concentrate his efforts on completing the development and opening of the Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort.  The Board has asked him to remain and work on the due diligence and planning for the Pinta Road Casino & Travel Center as well as other potential developments on behalf of the NNGE.

“I have had the privilege to work for an extraordinary board of directors, as well as with caring and committed Enterprise staff and casino employees during my time with NNGE,” Winter said. “When I was confirmed as CEO in 2007, I advised members of the Council that it was my goal to mentor a Navajo for the CEO position and I wouldn’t resign until I had found the right person.  Having worked closely with Derrick during my tenure as CEO, I have total confidence in his ability to lead the NNGE and he is, without a doubt, the right person for the job.”

In June 2012, after three years of casino operations, the NNGE Board of Directors authorized the Enterprise’s first distribution of gaming profits to the Navajo Nation Gaming Distribution Fund.  The first distribution to the Navajo Nation was $5 million with future distributions expected to increase over the coming years.

Watchman said, “I learned a great deal from Bob Winter and I am looking forward to applying what I have learned as we continue to grow and strengthen our partnership with the Navajo Nation.  Of course, any good organization is only as good as its’ employees and I happen to believe we have the finest and most dedicated employees around.  Furthermore, I am very positive about NNGE’s future and I am especially excited about the opening of our flagship property Twin Arrows – a unique destination that the Navajo Nation can be proud of.”

“Bob successfully promoted NNGE’s mission to develop a Navajo gaming economy.  Under his leadership NNGE provided thousands of Navajo people with jobs, competitive wages, and the ability to provide for their families,” said Quincy Natay, NNGE Board Chair. “During Bob’s tenure, he consistently advocated that the Navajo Nation has the talent within to make gaming profitable. Under Bob’s leadership he created a strong management team. In particular, Derrick’s commitment to the success of the Enterprise is evident and we have great confidence that he will continue making a difference in the lives of the Navajo people. We are excited about NNGE’s future with Derrick as our CEO.”