LANSING, Mich. — The business partners in the new casino proposed for downtown Lansing have agreed to extend for 90 days the deadline for transferring ownership of the land for the project from the City of Lansing to the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, it was announced today.
Due to the complexity of the project and the many requirements of seeking federal approval for the casino, the partners said they simply could not complete all necessary pre-development work by the self-imposed deadline of Aug. 1.
“We are all here today to reaffirm our total commitment to this partnership and our unwavering drive to seeking federal approval for this spectacular Lansing casino and the more than 1,500 permanent jobs it will create,” said Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. “We are also here today to announce that while we have made great progress on the plans and the project, the clock ran out on us to get everything done that was intended by Aug. 1, so we have mutually agreed to extend the deadline another 90 days to Nov. 1. We will have it done by then.”
Said Sault Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment: “My job is to protect the best interests of my tribal membership, which in the case of this project means making sure all necessary project details are settled before we file our trust land application. We knew the initial deadline we set of Aug. 1 was aggressive given all the work that must be done to file a solid and comprehensive application with the federal government to take this land into trust. While we have made significant progress on many aspects of the project, we simply need more time to get everything done that must be completed.”
Some of the project details that are still being completed include a full parking analysis, project aesthetics, consideration of building a permanent structure versus a temporary building on the site of the corner parcel, and more detailed civil engineering work that includes a detailed utility plan.
“Let me emphasize that all of these matters will be completed, none of the issues we face are remotely insurmountable, and we will get this done,” Bernero said. “While we have made a ton of progress, we simply just could not get everything done as fast as we initially thought.”
The $245 million Sault Tribe casino will be built in the heart of the city’s entertainment district, adjacent to the Lansing Center. The 125,000-square-foot Kewadin Lansing Casino will create an estimated 1,500 permanent jobs at the property and more than 700 construction jobs. A temporary casino would open in advance of the opening of the permanent facility.
The Sault Tribe’s partner in the project is a group of investors previously known as Lansing Future LLC. The group has restructured itself and changed its name to Lansing Future Development LLC. The restructuring occurred as one of the investors has decided to assume a much larger role in the project. That investor is Robert G. Liggett Jr., owner of Big Boy restaurants across Michigan. Mr. Liggett was and continues to be the project’s largest investor. All of the original investors in Lansing Future LLC remain partners in the reorganized entity and Bill Martines remains CEO.
The Tribe will use the casino revenues to improve programs and services to members, including health care, education, housing, elder care, social services, and more.
The City of Lansing will use its annual revenue payments from the facility to create the Lansing Promise, a program to fund four-year college scholarships for Lansing School District graduates.
The project has already been approved by the Lansing City Council, the Sault Tribe Board of Directors, and the Sault Tribe membership in a tribal referendum held earlier this year.
The project will be built on City of Lansing-owned land to be purchased by the Sault Tribe. The Tribe will file an application with the U.S. Department of the Interior to take the land into trust as tribal lands under a specific provision of the federal Land Claims Act that gives only the Sault Tribe the legal right to the process. The Tribe’s intent is to open the casino after receiving federal approval.
Plans for the casino include up to 3,000 slot machines and 48 table games, and assorted bars and restaurants in an urban modern-themed property.
The Sault Tribe has successfully operated Indian casinos in the state since 1984 and currently owns five Kewadin Casino properties in the eastern Upper Peninsula. With more than 40,000 members, the Sault Tribe is the largest federally-recognized tribe east of the Mississippi and one of the largest job providers in Northern Michigan with 1,900 employees at its casinos, other businesses, and tribal government agencies.