It's been decades in the making, and tomorrow, the Tohono O'odham Nation is hosting a groundbreaking groundbreaking for its West Valley Resort and Casino.
The private ceremony, which will include tribal and local government leaders, comes just weeks after the City of Glendale and the Nation reached a formal agreement to work together on the resort-style casino project.
When the Nation first publicly proposed the casino in 2009, then-Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs, the majority of the Glendale City Council and statewide politicians came out with vehement opposition.
Lawsuits were filed and federal lawmakers proposed laws to kill the project.
As time passed, and the Nation saw repeated victories in both the legal courts and the court of public opinion, some of the anti-casino rhetoric eased up. Newly elected officials on the Glendale City Council also turned the tide of opposition.
Glendale Councilman Sammy Chavira, a longtime advocate of the casino project, is excited about the tremendous impact the West Valley Resort is going to have, not only on Glendale, but the entire West Valley.
"This is going to be catalyst for prosperity and new development," he says.
The deal was made possible when Chavira convinced Councilman Gary Sherwood, who was initially a "no" vote, to push city staff to take another -- and harder -- look at the project.
"Sherwood has the courage to take on issues, no matter how controversial, and make the decisions that are going benefit the citizens and employees of Glendale," says Chavira. "He deserve so much credit for that."
On August 12, the Glendale City Council opened its arms to the Nation -- and its casino -- agreeing to drop any lawsuits it has against the Nation, concede that the Nation's project is not and has never been within its corporate limits or the boundaries of any other city or town, whole heartedly supports taking the entirety of the Nation's West Valley property into federal trust as reservation land, as had been originally requested.
And that means much more than the 54 acres that are currently in trust.
In exchange for the city's support, Nation leaders agree to give Glendale more than $26 million over 20 years, including an initial payment of $500,000.
The Nation will also pay for construction of the $400 million project, and cover the tab for any municipal services and all infrastructure costs in and around the project site. Once that's all set up, the Nation will pay standard fees and service charge rates for commercial customers.
"This agreement marks a major step forward for the Nation, Glendale, and the entire West Valley, one that will lead to greater prosperity for all our communities," Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris, Jr. said in a statement. "The Nation looks forward to continued partnership with Glendale as we work together to create jobs and a world-class entertainment destination."
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