Tag Archives: Twin Arrows


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.”

Twin Arrows Wins at G2E

Twin Arrows Named 'Best Native American Casino' at G2E Conference

The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise’s (NNGE) Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort, located 20 minutes east of Flagstaff, Ariz., was recognized as the top Native American Casino Facility in the nation at this week’s G2E (Global Gaming Expo) Conference. The Friedmutter Group of Las Vegas, which designed the structure in collaboration rsz_twin_arrows_2011-04-20_birds_eye_renderingwith Navajo tribal members, and JBA Consulting Engineers, which led the active systems engineering, submitted an entry for the stunning 267,000-square-foot facility that showcases Navajo culture and original artworks throughout the property.

“We are grateful to The Friedmutter Group of Las Vegas and JBA Consulting Engineers for their ability to culturally infuse Navajo into the building by incorporating the vision of our team in the exterior and interior designs, décor and engineering,” states Derrick Watchman, NNGE CEO. “We are proud to be recognized as the number one Native American Casino Facility in the Nation and congratulate The Friedmutter Group, JBA Consulting Engineers and our employees for this prestigious recognition.”

He added, “We would also like to thank our culture committee that worked tirelessly to ensure Navajo traditions and culture were accurately and appropriately showcased.”

Best Native American Casino Facility in Design and Engineering

G2E’s Casino Design Awards – the preeminent design awards program for the gaming industry – recognize excellence in architecture, design, engineering and construction. Each entry was judged on its own merits by a panel of five distinguished individuals selected for professional expertise in design, planning and construction. All licensed Architectural Firms, Design Companies and Construction Companies were eligible to enter.

Judges evaluated The Friedmutter Group, JBA Consulting Engineers and Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort on the following criteria:

•    Unique and original thinking
•    Compatibility and harmony of the project to its environment
•    Consideration of geographic and climatic conditions
•    Use of appropriate or innovative building forms and materials
•    Inclusion of meticulous and inventive detailing
•    Striving for special and unique design solutions to the positioning aimed at and the success achieved

Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort was recognized as the top Native America Casino Facility for both for its design and engineering.

“We are enormously honored to be recognized with this prestigious award and gratefully thank the Navajo Nation, who hired us for the project,” said Friedmutter Group founder and CEO Brad Friedmutter. “The success of this project is a direct reflection of the great teamwork and cooperation of the entire team starting with the leadership of Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise. We worked very closely with the owners and SICON, the owner’s representative, to translate their vision into an overall design that celebrates their rich Navajo Culture throughout the property and are so proud to be part of this winning team.”

Jim Gist, chief sales and marketing officer for JBA Consulting Engineers added, “While we have worked on projects across the globe, this team and the opportunity to create something truly unique in the Native America Gaming space was an honor for our entire firm.”

Culturally Infused Building and Design

Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort’s five-story hotel with 90 rooms, 16,000 square foot conference center, heated-indoor swimming pool, fitness center and casino floor with rotunda, food court, steakhouse, seafood bar, sports bar, 24-hour café, gift shop and coffee shop were completed in May 2013. 400 Navajo construction workers were employed on the project that began September 2011.

The main drive and porte corchere are expressed architecturally as the upward movement of ancestors through the Four Worlds.
A water feature at the entrance symbolizes the rising waters that motivated the people to move up and seek new worlds to live in.
The hotel tower features a dimensional over-scaled weave pattern, suggesting the work of hands and hearts; the weaving of baskets, textiles, and song.
The texture and lines sweeping over the façade of the lower casino buildings relates to the winds sweeping across the Nation bringing life to the Dine.
A cascading glass entry to the south of the casino façade recalls the Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River.

At the main entrance of the casino guests enter through a black textured stone vestibule, a contemporary abstraction of the First World.
The entrance also contains stone soffits that depict the 1st World of the Insect people, the 2nd World of Bluebirds and Swallow people, the 3rd World of the Grasshoppers, and the 4th World where Man and Woman came to be.
A custom chandelier in the rotunda depicts the vertical rise of the people through each world. Hand blown glass rings represent the colors of each world. Droplets of crystal cascade through the rings like water two chrome tubes in the center of the rings symbolize the reeds that were used to enter through the hard sky of the world.
The rotunda floor mirrors the chandelier in an infinity circle reflection.

The casino’s theme is “The Glittering World”.
Its ceiling depicts a Navajo night sky and the Milky Way with custom decorative chandeliers.
At the center of the casino an area is surrounded by a custom silver and bronze metal chain drapery. The metal drapery creates an oval with grass and reed designs.
Crystal lanterns surround the outer layers, and inside a reflective chandelier with independent rays of light form a central ceiling feature.
Additional detail throughout the casino recalls the glittering Dook’ o’osliid, the western mountain that “light shines from within”.

Other Interiors:
Custom commissioned artwork is featured throughout the resort, casino and conference center.
Each restaurant has a different theme celebrating Navajo traditions.
Resort rooms and suites (available in three different configurations) feature a contemporary décor. Select rooms have panoramic mountain views, but each has superior linens, over-sized 100 percent Egyptian cotton towels and the iBahn entertainment system, which features the latest technology in room entertainment (a personalized multimedia HD TV experience).
The resort is further embellished with the sacred colors of the Navajo Nation and the unique basket weave design.


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.