Tonto Apaches Enjoy Many Changes

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Expansion planned at the Mazatzal Casino, including a new hotel, along with creation of a more complete youth recreation center, were among the many advances made by the Tonto Apaches in 2003.

Big plans for the casino were at the top of the list of changes for the tribe in 2003, according to tribal chairperson Vivian Burdette.

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Mazatzal Casino Chief Executive Officer Jim Gannarelli shows the site of the new casino and hotel on the Tonto Apache Reservation to Roundup reporter Jim Keyworth. The plans for the new facility were announced in November with projected completion in 10 months.

In November, the casino's chief executive officer, Jim Gannarelli, announced the tribe's plans for the new casino. Scheduled to open in 10 months, the new facility will have 45,000 square feet, 100 new slot machines, more blackjack tables, plus a 40-room hotel. It also will provide about 50 new jobs.

Burdette said the new casino is among the top projects for the new year as well as one of its biggest challenges.

Another big event in 2003 was the start of live blackjack at the casino in late February.

With the 2002 passage of Proposition 202, the casino's new compact with the state allowed the start of live blackjack. The casino opened six tables and provided 30 new jobs when the game started.

Burdette cited the arrival of other new games at the casino as another accomplishment in 2003.

"We started the youth recreation center and the pool," Burdette said.

The youth center and pool will be another project that continues into the new year.

Expanding the services and activities available to the young people is important to the TAT. There are athletic teams for the young people, including a highly successful track and field team. The team included the Grand Canyon Games male and female athletes of the year in 2000-2001. Plans to move the youth center (the old administration building) were under way March 10.

The structure was moved from the north side of B.I.A. 101, the name given the main road into the reservation, to property northeast of the Sonic Drive-In and west of the tribal gym. The pool is being constructed on the south side of the gym.

Burdette said the tribe has continued to work with the town on a water agreement so the two entities can work together to find more water.

"We also built four new homes, but that is all we can build until we get the land exchange," Burdette said.

Work on the land exchange with the U.S. Forest Service has been an ongoing project for a number of years, and one that will continue in the new year. Burdette said the exchange is extremely important.

Space is so limited on the tribe's land at present that some of the younger members have had to leave the reservation and find homes in Payson.

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