WYANDOTTE - Rising seven floors, the tip-top of the framework was laid in place of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe's expansion of a second tower at Indigo Sky Casino. A “Topping Off Ceremony” took place Thursday morning with a large crowd in attendance to celebrate the occasion.
The management of Indigo Sky Casino greeted and thanked those assembled for the traditional iron topping off ceremony.
“This is a monumental occasion,” Eastern Shawnee Chief Glenna Wallace said.
The $36 million addition to the existing gaming facility, Indigo Sky Casino, broke ground on June 6. The expansion project is currently ahead of the construction schedule and is expected to be completed by late July of next year.
“My mother was secretary/treasurer of this tribe. My mother’s birthday would have been three days ago. She would have been 103 years of age. She died at the age of 90,” Wallace said. “I regret that she isn’t able to see what has happened here because it’s people like my mother, and people and chiefs whose shoulders we stand upon, who have made this possible for us. When my mother was secretary/treasurer for this tribe our entire yearly budget was $50 a year.”
Wallace said the sacrifice of tribal members for the betterment of the tribe has been the foundation for the tribe’s successful ventures.
“They had dreams. Without those dreams, without holding this tribe together, we wouldn’t be here today,” she said. “We stand here, one generation later, and there is no way that when I first began to serve on the business Committee, which would have been 28 years ago, there is no way that I could have begun to fathom the progress that we would make and what would happen to this tribe. So it truly is a day of celebration.”
Not only will the Indigo Sky expansion add opportunities for business and event use, but it will also add 45 casino employees and 250 construction jobs throughout the project to completion.
The new facility will add 127 hotel rooms for a total of 244 rooms at Indigo Sky, including two to three Bay suites, each located on the sixth and seventh floor.
A restaurant expansion of the Shawanoe Restaurant will increase seating by 100, expand the buffet area, and add a new banquet kitchen.
Adding to the facility's amenities, a new Banquet/Event space is included with seating of up to 600 is part of the new expansion. The new ballroom will have the capacity to break into five areas for events and concerts. An additional two meeting rooms, plus a boardroom with four meeting rooms in the existing tower at Indigo Sky, will greatly enhance the ability of the facility to host a variety of affairs.
Indigo Sky Casino now includes three food venues, two bars, banquet space, 1,275 gaming machines, 117 hotel rooms, a pool, poker, Off Track Betting, table games and Bingo, and employs 650.
Wallace told those gathered, the tribe started its first Bingo Hall in 1984.
"It was important to us to keep our name and to let people know that we were a tribe that would stand behind our word, and we would do what was ethical," she said.
Wallace said any mistakes the tribe may have made have been far outweighed by successes. The Eastern Shawnee Chief gave a lesson in the symbolism and meaning of the celebratory construction ‘Topping Out Ceremony.”
“Today we are here with something that’s called a ‘Topping Out Ceremony,’ and that ceremony means that green tree that you see behind you over there on that white beam, those are integral parts of the ceremony,” she said.
The Topping Out Ceremony, Wallace explained, derived in the Scandinavian culture. The Scandinavian’s placed an evergreen on the top of buildings to appease tree-dwelling spirits of their displaced ancestors as they cut down trees for lumber to construct buildings. In the 1400s in England it was custom to place a yew tree branch at the tallest point of the building to keep evil spirits at bay. The custom ultimately came to the United States with high rise iron worker construction, and trees continued to be placed on top in reverence to nature and that “no man-made structure should be taller than a tree,” Wallace said.
“Whatever the slant might be, whatever the country, all stories say that he evergreen symbolizes positive things, and that’s what’s happening today,” she added. “And all say that it brings good luck for future occupants. We wish to have many, many future occupants and while we wish them good luck at all of the games and the tables and so forth, it symbolizes today, continued growth, and most important it symbolizes a safe job.”
Wallace said Thursday’s ceremony was held to celebrate growth, good luck and is an occasion to celebrate all who contributed to the project, and served to honor the construction crew workers who made the building possible.
“We salute you,” she said. “…Most of all the Topping Out Ceremony while it introduces the structure to the public, while it is not finished, the Topping Out Ceremony uniquely honors the accomplishment of the construction of the crews and the vision of the Business Committee and the people of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe, and we thank you for being here and celebrating this occasion with us.”
The expansion project is being led by Crossland Construction and an estimated 250 laborers will be put to work on this project bringing extra money into the local community, with Encompass working as the Owners Representative.
“What I basically want to say is thank you, thank you to the Chief and to the Eastern Shawnees for this privilege. We’re very proud to do this and look forward to the grand opening,” Encompass Project Manger Lester Gonzalez said.
Chief Wallace, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe Business Committee, and the project’s construction team and others present were all invited to sign the white painted iron beam that was then raised to the top of the ironwork frame of the building. A small evergreen tree sat atop the beam and a large United States flag flew below, bellowing in the wind as it was raised into place by a huge crane.
“I can’t express the anticipation of getting it up and getting it occupied,” First Council Business Committee member Larry Kropp said. “I’m just excited.”
The Eastern Shawnee Tribe’s Business Committee Treasurer Cheryl Barnes echoed Kropp’s excitement.
“This is a monumental event, I’m so excited,” Barnes said. “I’m so grateful. I’m glad we’ve had no safety issues, everybody’s good.”
The expansion speaks to the tribe’s success in gaming and other ventures including events at the nearby Bordertown Casino & Arena such as bull futurity events, which bring in many guests.
“We don’t have enough rooms and that’s a good problem,” Barnes said.
“In a six month period last year we turned away over 6,800 people wanting rooms and right now it can be a month out to book a room for the weekend,” Kropp said.
The additional rooms in the new facility will soon be ready to accommodate the tribe’s success and growth.
“We have great customer service, we’re very proud of that,” Barnes said.
The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma owns and operates Indigo Sky Casino, Bordertown Casino & Arena and the Outpost Casino. This year marks the 32nd year of gaming for the tribe.