Big changes at the Mazatzal Casino were among the top events for the Tonto Apaches in 2003, according to Tribal Chairperson Vivian Burdette.
"We've started the new casino," Burdette said.
In November, the casino's chief executive officer, Jim Gannarelli announced the tribe's plans for a new casino. Scheduled to open in only 10 months, the new facility will have 45,000 square feet, 100 new slot machines, more blackjack tables, plus a 40-guest suite hotel. It will also provide approximately 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 was the start of live blackjack at the casino in late March.
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.
Also considered an accomplishment in 2003: the Tonto Apache's administrative and social services settled into the new administration building. While they moved into the building in late summer of 2002, it took a few months to get everything fully finished and in place.
"We started the youth recreation center and the pool," Burdette said of other accomplishments.
The youth center and pool will be another project that continues into the new year. Plans include moving the youth center from the old administration building to a structure to be added to the gym and make it adjacent to the covered pool which is currently under construction.
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 on-going project for a number of years, and one that will continue in the new year. Burdette said the exchange is extremely important -- it is needed so the Tonto Apaches can build more homes for its younger members as they become adults and start their own families.
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 town.