The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma unveiled its Downstream Casino Wednesday, a few days ahead of its anticipated opening and a month ahead of schedule.

Tribal officials call the casino a “show piece” and define its interior as both “dazzling” and “earthy.”

“We've said all along, you just have to see it with your own eyes to really know how special this place is. So we're very pleased right now to show it to you,” said John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Business Committee and chairman of the Downstream Development Authority.

When the casino opens on Saturday with its five restaurants and two bars, it will break a record for speed of construction on a facility of its size and scope, Berrey said. Construction at opening day will have lasted 10 months and 26 days.

John Snyder, president of Manhattan Construction Co.'s Oklahoma Division, the general contractor on Downstream, said his people and the sub-contractors were motivated by the tribe's support, kindness and enthusiasm and pushed the schedule to achieve an opening on July 4 weekend.

The resort's lead architect, Bill Dow, a principal of JCJ Architecture of Hartford, Conn., said Downstream is one of the country's finest casinos, from a design perspective.

“It's not one of the country's biggest casinos, although it is good sized, but it is certainly one of the more sophisticated designs,” Dow said. His firm has designed for some of the most highly regarded casinos in the United States, including the Seneca Niagara and Seneca Allegany Resorts, and Foxwoods Resort Casino at Mashantucket, Conn., the world's largest and most successful casino.

“We are especially proud of what we've done at Downstream,” Dow said. “This is unique to the world because of its use of native Quapaw design elements. For us, as architects, it is definitely a show piece.”

The casino's poker room is one of the most spectacular poker rooms in the country, Dow said.

Berrey said Downstream is the first large-scale Native-American casino to open with all of its restaurants and bars finished and operating at full capacity.

More than 1,100 employees have been hired in the past two months. About 200 additional employees will be hired in time for the hotel's opening this fall, tribal officials said.

Downstream has also attracted nationally recognized gaming consultants to participate in its planning, strategy and development. That includes executive G. Michael “Mickey” Brown of Sea Girt, N.J., who was instrumental in the creation of Atlantic City gaming in the early 1980s.

“When I first heard what the Quapaw Tribe had in mind to create here, I knew I wanted to be part of it. And it has exceeded my expectations,” Brown said. “Downstream is one of the country's finest casino resorts, and I have no doubt people will come from far and wide and they will be impressed.”

John Thompson of Austin-based Elm Tree Partners, the resort's financial partner, said Downstream's construction and operations infrastructure development is a remarkable story due to its being more than a month ahead of schedule and “millions of dollars” under budget.

“That's unheard of in this business,” Thompson said. “It has caused a real buzz in the nation's finance community. A lot of folks on Wall Street are paying attention.”

Phase I of the multi-phase development is a $301 million endeavor consisting of the 277,000-square-feet casino building, a 12-story, 222-room luxury hotel with a spa and conference center. Total square feet of Phase I is about 1,000,000 square feet.

In March, the Quapaw developers purchased the 36-hole

Loma Linda Country Club located just across the interstate highway, and also decided to build a 7,500-seat outdoor concert venue on the resort site.

“Phase I grew when these additional opportunities came up,” Berrey said. “We also ended up building an additional administration building behind the casino because we needed more office space for our employees.”

Phase II will include a second hotel tower and a state-of-the-art convention center.

Design will begin immediately after the first hotel is complete this fall, Berrey said.

Meanwhile, the Downstream team and its 1,100 employees are bracing for the Saturday opening, not really knowing what to expect crowd-wise but sensing that it will be significantly large. Law enforcement officials from Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri recently met in summit-style fashion to come up with a traffic plan and to coordinate the policing of the unique cross-jurisdictional location of the resort, which sits on all three states. Downstream has made arrangements for off-site parking and a fleet of shuttle buses to move people to and from the casino on Saturday. A new roundabout intersection and expanded lanes at the resort's entrance on Highway 166 just north of I- 44, Exit 1, will get its first test. Missouri highway officials and local planners and engineers designed the roundabout to move traffic smoothly and safely.