From start to finish
With the opening of Wind Creek Montgomery (WCM) this month, and the ending of another year, now is a good time to look back at the construction history of the Tribe, as managed by Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority (CIEDA).
Since the mid-2000s, a plethora of major construction projects have taken place under the guidance and leadership of the CIEDA construction management team.
Following extensive renovations at Creek Casino Montgomery in recent years, the decision to add a hotel and entertainment venue to the property, to mimic Wind Creek Atmore and Wetumpka locations, was a no-brainer.
The concept began with totally demolishing parking lots and buildings and completely redesigning the landscape of the area near the Tallapoosa River, which has ultimately led to the Tribe's latest endeavor at WCM.
Here we will highlight various projects that, throughout the years, have made the Poarch Band of Creek Indians one of the most recognizable names in the state of Alabama and across the country.
Wind Creek Atmore
The idea of Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Atmore, Ala., (WCA) was conceived in 2007, and the $245 million project was completed and open in January 2009. CIEDA Construction Manager Jim Angus said the project created more than 350 construction jobs.
"We are spending more on the finer details to make this a nicer hotel and resort (to distinguish from neighboring Mississippi gaming facilities)," Angus said at the time.
Since the opening, there have been major renovations of the facility, including complete remodels of The Fire restaurant, The Sound venue, The Grill, The Center Bar, adding stationary seating to the amphitheater and installing sliding glass doors at all entryways, all overseen by Tribal Member and Project Manager Kevin Rackard.
The addition of the Cultural Kiosk in the foyer was completed in mid-2015 to showcase archival photos and Poarch Creek artisan jewelry. Wall videos play on both sides of the display, flanked by murals depicting Indian history.
Creek Convenience Store Atmore
In conjunction with the opening of WCA, Creek Smoke Shop finished construction and opened Labor Day 2009. The smoke shop previously was housed in a mobile trailer and sold only discount tobacco products. Once the new facility was built, it was rebranded in 2014 to its new name, Creek Convenience Store Atmore, to reflect its expanded product offerings and now is a full-service convenience store and gas station.
Creek Entertainment Gretna
Next up for the construction management team was a new venture into Florida. Creek Entertainment Gretna opened in December 2011 as a horse racing and a poker room venue.
Gretna City Manager Antonio Jefferson said the $20 million development provided 180 jobs, a boom for the rural community in North Florida.
Creek Travel Plaza
And CIEDA construction didn't stop there. Less than a year later, Creek Travel Plaza (CTP) opened in September 2012. The full-service truck stop was built directly off Interstate 65 at exit 54, catering to truck drivers who come through the area on a regular basis and need a layover stay to rest between deliveries.
CTP features big showers, laundry facilities, a sit-down 1950s-style diner, fast-food chicken by Chesters, a full convenience store and truckers lounge. Many Tribal Members gather to eat and socialize at the diner, making CTP a frequented Tribally owned business serving the Tribal community, truck drivers and vacationers.
Entertainment Center at WCA
The Entertainment Center at Wind Creek Atmore was completed in October 2013. In 2012, a feasibility study was conducted and design planning followed. The study identified areas of entertainment that locals were traveling to neighboring counties/cities to participate in.
"We built the entertainment center so local people would be spending their money here, instead of going to the surrounding towns that offered things like a big movie theater, a bowling alley, arcade rooms, a spa," CIEDA President and CEO Tim Martin said. "We realized not everyone wants to use the gaming machines, so we identified areas of entertainment that locals would enjoy and would come back to again and again."
Wind Creek Wetumpka
The year 2014 was an explosive time for construction at CIEDA. At the same time as the entertainment center planning in Atmore, the CIEDA management team was hard at work 138 miles north in Wetumpka, Ala., building the Tribe's second resort-style casino and hotel, Wind Creek Wetumpka. WCW opened in January 2014.
Buford L. Rolin Health Clinic and Lavan Martin Assisted Living Facility
The Tribe always takes care of its own. The need to provide expanded health services for Tribal Members and honor Tribal elders sparked the construction of a health clinic and full-service assisted living facility on the reservation.
In March 2014, the $15 million combined projects opened. The assisted living facility serves all elders and houses the SAIL center. The architectural concept was inspired by elements found in nature and showcases Creek heritage through archival photos and displays Poarch Creek Indian art.
Creek Convenience Store Wetumpka
Construction was happening simultaneously to create what would become Creek Convenience Store Wetumpka (CCSW).
Not to be outdone by its counterpart in Atmore, Riverside Smoke Shop moved from its mobile trailer location in June 2014 to the new facility across from WCW and was rebranded into CCSW. Just like the Atmore location, CCSW is a full-service convenience store and gas station and continues to sell discount tobacco products, along with Indian culture items, such as dolls, purses and other souvenir items.
Wind Creek Montgomery
The latest addition to the gaming facilities is in Montgomery, Ala., where this month, Creek Casino Montgomery will change names and open in the newly constructed, $65 million project — Wind Creek Montgomery Hotel and B.B. King's Blues Club.
"We are ahead of schedule with this project," Angus said. "Construction began in November 2014; we were slated to open in 2016 but now will open this month."
The expansion and renovations of Creek Casino Montgomery began in 2011 and was done in phases, beginning with a 50,000 square foot, $25 million facility; then another 30,000 square foot, $12 million facility; along with new parking lots, landscaping and interior renovations to the existing facility.
"Everything you see on that property is new — from the ground up," Angus said.
Honoring Poarch Creek culture and history
The CIEDA construction management team works with various design teams to incorporate Creek Indian heritage by featuring culturally significant aspects in its architecture. The stone materials and colors used in the buildings represent the Tribe’s connection to nature. Historical photos honor the Tribal culture and long road to federal recognition. Even details like the curved design on top of the casinos are strategically integrated to encompass Creek culture.
"We are a humble people," Martin said. "We give back to those who gave to us, and we respect nature, our Creator and where we came from."
By Jen Peake
CIEDA Marketing Specialist