Tag Archives: SRPMIC

Top 5: Arizona Casinos - Experience AZ Fall-Winter 2012

Senators Urged to Preserve Future of Indian Gaming in Arizona

Congress has the power to intervene in a growing national practice and problem of ‘off-reservation gaming,’ or ‘reservation-shopping.’ The topic was at the heart of an oversight hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today, titled, “Indian Gaming: The Next 25 Years,” and included discussion of H.R. 1410—the bi-partisan bill to solve the problem faced by the city of Glendale in Arizona, that will protect the integrity of Indian Gaming in the state, but would also be a beacon to cities and towns across the U.S. that find themselves in similar circumstances.

A prelude to a vote on H.R. 1410 by the U.S. Senate, today’s hearing included testimony from Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) President, Diane Enos and City of Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, excerpts from their testimony follow, full transcripts can be found at www.indian.senate.gov.

SRPMIC President, Diane Enos opened her remarks, by saying, “For over 20 years Arizona Indian Gaming has been stable, predictable, and successful. However, sadly, its future in Arizona does not look good. It is threatened by the actions of one tribe. H.R. 1410, the ”Keep the Promise Act,” which is pending before the Committee, will help protect Indian gaming in Arizona. We respectfully urge the Committee to pass it.”

SRPMIC President explained to the Senators that private non-Indian gaming companies were always hovering over Arizona looking for an opportunity, a loophole, to overthrow Indian Gaming exclusivity, but that today, that exclusivity, and the current Indian Gaming compacts were jeopardized from within, by the Tohono O’odham Nation:

“This plan by the Tohono O’odham of building an additional casino in the Phoenix-metro area directly violates promises that they made, that other Arizona tribes made, and that the Governor of Arizona made to citizens who approved our compacts in November 2002,” stated Enos. In 2002, then-Governor Jane D. Hull announced that the compacts she and 17 tribes had negotiated for two and a half years – if approved by the voters – would ensure there would be “no additional casinos allowed in the Phoenix metropolitan area”. This promise of “no additional casinos in the Phoenix-metro area” was made by Tribes and the Governor over and over to the voters, Enos said, “because we believed it.”

City of Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers addressed the powerlessness of local government in this situation, saying, “Our choice was not ideal: continue to fight and hope for action from this body, or give in to this casino being forced on us. It is frustrating to be a city of our size and have no voice on a casino proposed by a tribal government more than a hundred miles away.”

Weiers also spoke up about what this means for other cities, “Our sister cities know that unless Congress acts, they may be next. There are over 200 other county islands in the Phoenix metropolitan area. And the Tohono O’odham Nation attorneys have said the Tribe has the right to close its existing three casinos and open them on these county islands. We are a test case, but it is the start of a very slippery slope. If Congress does not act, the entire Phoenix area should be prepared for more off-reservation casinos.”

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Laws of the land: Navigating development in Indian Country

Gerrit Steenblik, Polsinelli

Gerrit Steenblik, Polsinelli

Anyone who has tried to develop on one of the 22 federally recognized Indian tribes’ land in Arizona has probably encountered the patchwork of land ownership that can sometimes make it difficult to build. Land on reservations can be owned by the tribe, held in trust and owned by an individual (both allotted property and non). Recently, Polsinelli’s Gerrit Steenblik and Anne Kleindienst shared that to negotiate a 55-year land lease for the development of the Noah Webster school on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, they had to work with many departments of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, including the general counsel’s office, the economic development division, the treasurer’s office, the education administration and the community’s public relations office, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the allotted land owners.

Each tribe functions as a sovereign nation and provides a variety of governmental services to tribal members.

Roxann Gallagher, Sacks Tierney

Roxann Gallagher, Sacks Tierney

“Because few tribes tax their members, many tribes engage in commercial activities to generate sufficient revenue to provide these services,” says Roxann Gallagher, attorney at Sacks Tierney. “As a result, we have traditionally seen a mix of bonds, either tax-exempt or taxable, issued to acquire, construct or improve both governmental and commercial facilities.”

With the introduction of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, came $2B meant to broaden the reach of tax-exempt funding for commercial development. A significant portion of that $2B volume cap for tribal economic development bonds are still available.

Native American communities can issue tax-exempt bonds to finance construction projects that will benefit their own community, such as government and community buildings. Various departments also offer federal grants to fund schools, pre-school programs, health care, and infrastructure, including water systems and roads in Indian country.

“Keys to success [with regards to building in Indian country] included the personal relationships, long-range planning to avoid last-minute glitches and the fact that the new Noah Webster School responded to a genuine need of the community, leading to a win-win result,” says Steenblik, who was the borrower’s counsel for the Noah Webster School being constructed on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The construction of the new Noah Webster Schools-Pima project within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is being funded by a tax-exempt bond issued by the Industrial Development Authority of Pima County that is only available to tax exempt, nonprofit and non-Indian owned business.

“Construction financing undertaken by a tribal government or tribal governmental entity has many of the same challenges as any other governmental financing in terms of timing, structure, respect for political processes, and adherence to regulatory requirements,” says Gallagher. “Most notably, however, there are some additional legal and business issues that must be considered if certain tribal real property or restricted revenues are intended as security for the indebtedness. For instance, there are federal restrictions on the alienation of tribal property, potentially complicated title issues, and limitations on recourse against some potential sources of repayment.”

Ed Rubacha, Jennings, Haug & Cunningham

Ed Rubacha, Jennings, Haug & Cunningham

Though Jennings, Haug & Cunningham’s Ed Rubacha says it’s unlikely for tribal communities to resist payment by declaring sovereign immunity after a project is completed, the disputes of the Hualapai Skywalk and Ranch can make some developers nervous. Granted, if it’s a large project, Rubacha says, with a well-known tribe it may be smart to ask for a waive of immunity. A recent example being the Navajo Nation waiving its right to declare immunity on a $500M purchase of a coal mine being purchased by the Navajo Transitional Energy Company.

In the early 2000’s, the Navajo Nation decided to build its first casino in Arizona. It wouldn’t break ground until 2011 or open until May 2013. Twin Arrows employs 1,300 people and will make $45M a year. Instead of enlisting the help of a commercial bank, developers worked with the Navajo government to secure adequate funding.

“In 2009-10, the capital market was really soft,” says Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise Chief Executive Darrick Wachtman. “Wall Street wasn’t lending to the casino startups. There was no activity. It was a good opportunity for the nation to get good returns. The interest rate was higher than market. It’s dependent on the cash-flow leverage.”

As for developers, Gallagher reports positive feedback: “Sacks Tierney’s clients have found that successful tribal finance transactions are akin to hitting a perfect golf shot in that the result is well worth the effort.”

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Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community goes commercial

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community may have one of the best-located pieces of commercial real estate in the Phoenix Metro. It owns a 9.5-mile long area, known as the Pima Corridor, parallel to the Loop 101, a beltway connected to nearly all area freeways. Of that commercially zoned stretch, 143 acres remain undeveloped. Many Valley residents primarily associate the Talking Stick entertainment district with the Pima Corridor, the SRPMIC is seeking significant non-entertainment development within and without Talking Stick, including two charter schools and also procuring resources to update its existing data center.

“The SRPMIC is a pretty sophisticated community and as the community grows in population and business ventures, the adoption of technology also grows,” says SmithGroupJJR’s Technology Studio Leader Rob Sty. “[Records are] all stored electronically now. The community has gotten to the point that it needs to expand its data.”

As with any building on the community’s land, the data center must incorporate the culture’s aesthetic integrity. The challenge is that data centers, out of concern for security, tend to also be designed as background buildings.

“Architects and engineers do not always get to put that design element into a data center. It’s interesting for us,” Sty says, adding that designing a project for the SRPMIC was a community effort: “It’s a lot more interesting when all the groups are engaged. Everyone has a voice, and you come out with a better project.”

NOTCHES ON A TALKING STICK
A Talking Stick is a contemporary representation of the traditional O’odham (Pima) calendar stick, on which carvers recorded significant events and milestones throughout the year. It is also the namesake of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s entertainment district, which comprises about half of the tribes’ commercial land reserves. Talking Stick is a 1.1 MSF entertainment district consisting of a casino, resort, golf course, spring training facility and retail center called The Pavilions. Opened in the ‘80s, the Pavilions represents the second carving on Talking Stick’s calendar — the first being the union of the two tribes who comprise the community. The bottom of the stick shows vacant space with room to grow — and one of the many projects underway this year and next may just be the next addition.

The 1.1MSF Talking Stick’s build-up is due to a pro-development attitude of the community leaders as well as developers keen on getting their foot in the door of a burgeoning entertainment district. Since much of the traffic speeds by Talking Stick at 65 mph, designing for the corridor requires those such as PHX Architecture’s Erik Peterson to not only create something fun to visit but also something eye-catching from afar.

Peterson’s design for The Cove Family Fun Center, a metallic mesh-wrapped building with blue accent lighting around it is certainly made to pique the attention of freeway passengers. The building has to capture your attention, he says of his recent work on The Cove Family Fun Center — a 60KSF entertainment center. The basket-like building is set to break ground on SRPMIC later this year. Nick Andrews, developer of The Cove, was drawn to the Salt-River Pima Indian Community for his first project on tribal land due to the community’s proactive reputation.

“They’re really pro-growth when it comes to developers like us who have an entertainment-related venue,” Andrews says.

Just in the last 12 months, Talking Stick has seen development of a Courtyard Marriott, OdySea projects, Top Golf and other attractions. Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez, marketing project manager of Talking Stick, says it’s a combination of tribal leadership and private developers’ vision for tourism and entertainment amenities that has led to its recent success.

“Our leadership always looks ahead seven generations,” McAnlis-Vasquez says, though the present is just as exciting.

Though the SRPMIC has a population of 6,000, Salt River Fields, built in 2009, has more than 12 annual events, some of which bring up to 15,000 guests. The proposed OdySea Aquarium, set to break ground later this year, is designed to accommodate 15,000 visitors a day and will be the largest aquarium in the Southwest. Leasing at the Pavilions is at 87 percent, up from 50 percent at the downturn of the recession.

The shopping center has also seen more than $17M in renovations. Though The Cove Family Fun Center hasn’t signed a lease yet, the 60KSF entertainment venue is working proactively with the tribe to open for business by summer 2015.

THE RISE, FALL & REBIRTH OF THE PAVILIONS
When the Pavilions at Talking Stick was built, it was the freshest take on retail super centers. As time passed, ownership and management changed hands and the center fell into disrepair. Marty De Rito and business partner Chuck Carlise scooped up the property for $85M in January 2008 with 85 percent of the property leased. In 10 months, the recession dropped vacancy to 50 percent. Six years later, De Rito is just now breaking even on its purchase.

“This property could have taken our company down,” Carlise says. “Fortunately, now we’re about 87 percent leased. The tribe has been phenomenal in assisting us with the renaissance of this property.”

Just like the road through the center of the Pavilions to SRF, it goes both ways.

It was De Rito who got wind of the Diamondbacks’ desire to move north for spring training in 2009, and Carlise attributes his partner to bringing what would be a catalyst for the entire district to Salt River Fields.

“It’s an interesting thing when you have non-retail activity going on at the center. Salt River Fields helped this property to survive,” Carlise says.

Though SRF was a catalyst for businesses built up around the area and meant a surge of restaurant interest in Pavilions space, there was still one more hurdle De Rito Partners looked to clear — alcohol.

Until 2010, the only establishments that could serve liquor on tribal land were the hotel, casino and golf course — all owned by SRPMIC. De Rito Partners couldn’t bring restaurant tenants to the Pavilions if they needed a liquor license. Now, there’s a Red Robin under construction as well as business with Buffalo Wild Wings.

“There was no barrier for entry after that,” Carlise says.

The other saving graces for the Pavilions — lending (De Rito’s lender was General Electric, a bit more flexible than a regulated bank would have been) and moving an office to the Pavilions.

“We’ve probably saved half a million dollars just being onsite,” Carlise says, adding that the added attention to the property is what has contributed to the Pavilions’ return to its potential.

PROJECTS IN THE PIPELINE

OdySea Aquarium
odyseaDevelopment and Management Team: Amram Knishinsky, Martin Pollack and Rubin Stahl
General Contractor: McCarthy Building Companies
Architect: Deutsch Architecture Group
Location: Via De Ventura and the 101 in Scottsdale at
the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
Size: 200KSF
Brokerage Firm: N/A
Value: $175M
Estimated completion date: 4Q 2015
The OdySea Aquarium will be the largest aquarium in the Southwest and in the unlikely setting of the Sonoran desert. The two-level facility will span more than 200KSF, and visitors will move to each level via acrylic tunnels while viewing animals of rivers and oceans in the world.

noah_websterNoah Webster School – Pima Campus
Developer: Noah Webster Schools & Salt River Devco
General Contractor: Adolfson & Peterson Construction
Architect: Adolfson & Peterson Construction
Location: Pima & Jackrabbit roads, Scottsdale
Size: 51,502 SF
Value: $5.4M
Completed date: July 2014
The two-story framed K-6 charter school facility will feature 32 classrooms, including music and art rooms, a multi-purpose gym with cafeteria and stage, office space, conference rooms, play fields and bus parking. The project has been in planning and design for a number of years and the groundbreaking represents a significant milestone for Noah Webster Basic School and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s STEM education.

Great Hearts Academy – Cicero Campus
great_heartsDeveloper: De Rito Partners Development
General Contractor: Chasse Building Team
Architect: Gensler
Location: NWC Loop 101 & Indian Bend Road, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
Size: 85KSF
Brokerage Firm: Keyser/Mulhern Development Team
Value: $10M
Estimated completion date: July 2014
This nonprofit, tuition-free K-12 charter school will cater to 1,200 children in an area that was once occupied by a Chuck E. Cheese at the Pavilions Shopping Center. Phase I will accommodate students in grade K-7 and Phase II to 12th grade.

The Cove Family Fun Center
coveProject Name: The Cove Family Fun Center
Developer: Nick Andrews & David Prom
General Contractor: AR Mays Construction
Architect: PHX Architecture
Location: NEC of the Loop 101 Via de Ventura Interchange on the Salt River-Pima Maricopa Indian Community
Size: 67KSF
Value: $13M
Estimated completion date: Summer 2015
The Cove Family Fun Center is slated to include 19 themed birthday/event rooms, laser tag, bowling, arcade games, laser tag and go-karts.

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TopGolf At Riverwalk Teeing Off In Scottsdale; Groundbreaking Later This Month

 

Golf entertainment company TopGolf unveiled its 12th location and first in Arizona and Metro Phoenix, TopGolf at Riverwalk in Scottsdale

The 13-acre property is part of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC). TopGolf will officially break ground on the facility, at 9500 E. Indian Bend Rd. across the street from Talking Stick Resort, during a ceremony on July 19.

General contractor for the project is ARCO/Murray Construction Company of Illinois. The site is expected to in spring 2014.

TopGolf offers competitive golfing games for all ages and skill levels and advanced technology to track every player’s shot. Those who just want to relax can enjoy the upscale, laid-back ambiance that boasts more than 230 high-definition flat-screen TVs and an extensive food and beverage menu crafted by executive chef Mark Boyton.

“TopGolf is honored to partner with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to bring a new kind of entertainment concept to an area that is already renowned as a top cultural tourism destination,” said TopGolf Chief Development Officer Randy Starr.

The July 19 groundbreaking ceremony will feature dancing and singing performances from the SRPMIC and remarks from TopGolf, The Alter Group (TopGolf’s landlord and a major developer in the region), and SRPMIC Council leaders.

“The Alter Group, along with our landowners, are very excited that TopGolf selected our Riverwalk development for its first facility in metropolitan Phoenix,” said Kurt Rosene, senior vice president, national development for The Alter Group.

“TopGolf is unique, bringing golf together with experiential retail to offer something fun for all ages and skill levels, from seasoned golfers to people being introduced to the game for the first time. This first-class operation will provide a wonderful destination and amenity for our Riverwalk tenants and visitors.”

The tri-level facility  will include up to 3,000 SF of private event space and 102 climate-controlled hitting bays that can host up to six players at one time. Starr estimates that TopGolf at Riverwalk will serve approximately 400,000 visitors in its first year of operation. Nearly half of all TopGolf guests describe themselves as “non-golfers.”

“We are thrilled that TopGolf has chosen the Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination (TSCED) for its new state-of-the-art facility,” said TSCED Project Manager Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez. “This complex will significantly expand tourism as well as job growth for our residents.”

Founded in 2000, TopGolf attracted 1.5M participants in 2012. Its economic impact in the community is significant, creating hundreds of jobs at each location and serving as an anchor tenant that tends to attract other popular franchises to the area.

Its economic output within the SRPMIC and greater Scottsdale alone is expected to exceed $264.5M over a 10-year period, according to a third-party audit.