With the completion of the multimillion dollar Mazatzal Hotel and Casino, the Tonto Apache Tribe adds to its already rich and valuable heritage in the Rim Country.
The new hotel, restaurants and casino are a credit to the community and a key financial indicator of many more good things to come.
The Tonto Apache have made the Rim Country their home for hundreds of years. When the small band received its federal recognition in Oct. 1972, and reservation property, it did so with both that past and the future in mind.
The leadership of the tribe designated its property along Beeline Highway for commercial development. In 1993 it opened its first casino on the property. It had only 80 employees at the time, but that still made it one of the area's more substantial employers.
It also operates the Tonto Apache Tribal Market. Over the years it has also operated the Paysonglo Lodge and an ice cream shop.
Now, 14 years later, with more than 300 employees, the casino has become one of the area's largest employers. Add to that the people employed by the tribal government and its services, along with those who worked to build the new hotel and casino, and you have a tremendous amount of money coming into the communities of the Rim Country from the Tonto Apache.
It is not only payroll money that the tribe pumps into our economy. The tribal government and its businesses also pay for goods and services. More than $16 million was spent in 2004, and that was before construction started on the new hotel and casino. At that time, a special study on the tribe's economic impact said the money paid to Payson businesses and services supported between 55 and 63 other workers.
What the study did not address were all the outright gifts the Tonto Apache make to their neighboring governments, the schools, clubs and organizations and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The tribe and casino are almost always at the top of the list of contributors to special events presented by the chamber, such as the Business Showcase and the August Rodeo. Tonto Apache money was largely responsible for making the all-weather track at Payson High School a reality. It is a huge supporter of Special Olympics, making its pool available for the program's swim team. It also makes the pool and fitness center available to the Senior Circle members at a special price.
It is clear that the leaders of the Tonto Apache Tribe are civic-minded citizens and important financial and civic leaders in the Rim Country. Payson, and all Rim Country residents, are better off because of the friendship of the Tonto Apache Tribe leaders.
As it moves toward the celebration of its recognition as a tribe in October, we should all make an effort to say ‘thank you' for all the tribe has done for our communities.