Figure 69. FireKeepers Casino and Hotel, by JCJ Architecture, ca. 2021.
- NHBP secures bond financing for the development of FireKeepers Casino. NHBP’s FireKeepers Casino offering is the only casino project – tribal or commercial – to receive funding before the financial collapse.
- After more than ten years of planning, strategy, and vision, the NHBP opened the doors to FireKeepers Casino on August 5, 2009. FireKeepers features a 111,700-square foot gaming floor with 2,900 slot machines, 70 table games, multiple restaurants and lounges, a live poker room, and a bingo room. This $300 million project created a unique gaming destination in the Midwest while initially generating 1,500 jobs for the local community.
- On March 1, 2011, FireKeepers Casino broke ground on a major expansion. This initiative included a 242 room, 8-story resort-style hotel, conference rooms/event center, and expanded Bingo room. During this construction phase, the tribe’s commitment to local spending resulted in awarding contracts that totaled more than $25 million to the State of Michigan.
- As a result of very conservative management of casino revenues, NHBP is able to commit over $90 Million in revenues to receive approval of loans to re-finance high-interest bonds (reducing the interest rate from 13.87% to 3.25%) and also buys out the term of the contract with its external management company, giving NHBP control over its casino operations.
- FireKeepers Hotel opened its doors to the public on December 12, 2012. The expansion showcases a 243-room resort-style hotel featuring 26 suites, complete with an indoor pool, exercise facility, a full-service restaurant called Smoke ‘n Fire, and a business center. The addition also features a functional multi-purpose event center capable of seating up to 2,000 guests as a concert venue. When not used as a concert venue for superstar performers, the versatile space can accommodate banquets, corporate meetings, trade shows, and other events. This expansion brought 300 additional jobs to the Battle Creek area.
- On November 1, 2016, FireKeepers introduced a convenience store and gas station called “FireKeepers Pit Stop,” with an attached car wash adjacent to the casino.
On April 19, 2017, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder joined the NHBP Tribal Council along with a large contingent of elected officials and key Michigan business partners to commemorate the grand opening of The Fire Hub Restaurant and Kendall Street Pantry. The Fire Hub is a unique, multi-million-dollar casino community reinvestment housed in a restored historic city firehouse. FireKeepers Casino directly purchased, redeveloped, and created a downtown restaurant concept, plus an adjacent food pantry to help end food insecurity for individuals and households in the Battle Creek area by providing two to three days worth of food, once per month. The pantry is set up as a choice pantry, allowing each client the opportunity to select the food needed and wanted. Eighty percent of the profits will be pooled to benefit local charities, while twenty percent will provide maintenance capital dollars. Another central element of the project is the development of nearby tribal lands to farm and grow vegetables, with a goal of delivering a free salad bar to students in area communities.
“It’s very exciting to celebrate the grand opening after nearly a year of construction. This is the culmination of our plan to simultaneously create a successful restaurant product and help the community in an impactful way,” stated Michael McFarlen, FireKeepers Vice President of Food and Beverage and Fire Hub visionary. “We’re going to use The Fire Hub as an instrument to extinguish hunger in Battle Creek.”
Conditions on the reservation have improved immeasurably because of the FireKeepers Casino’s success.
“We always say it’s been rags to riches because it’s been less than ten years since the Pine Creek Reservation still had a dirt road and it was isolated, and we still had shacks and issues with running water and inadequate electric service and an elder still chopping wood for heat,” Vice-Chairperson of Tribal Council Dorie Rios said. “Now you come out on the ‘rez,’ and we have beautiful homes. We have fiber optics, new sewer, and water systems, a health clinic, a community center – in less than ten years! It’s just amazing. I’ve been through this whole process, and I still can’t believe it.”
The casino has provided the means to build the tribal nation, provide for its members and the community as a whole, she said. In addition to providing jobs and economic development in the area, the casino has paid $58 million to the State of Michigan and donated $21.9 million to the FireKeepers Local Revenue Sharing Board since 2009, both as part of the Band’s compact.
In August 2014, FireKeepers Casino Hotel surpassed $250 million in cumulative paid labor costs that include: Total wages, health insurance, 401(k), and incentives to the 1,700 full and part-time team members since opening. The Tribe’s commitment to local spending has resulted in awarding contracts of more than $93.1 million across the state since opening.
“In addition, the work that the Tribe is doing with economic development to diversify into different business platforms is a great springboard into the future, and I am looking forward to assisting and being a part of the future,” FireKeepers Casino Hotel CEO Kathy George said.
FireKeepers Casino Hotel. (2021a). Our Story. Firekeepers Casino Hotel. https://firekeeperscasino.com/about/our-story/
FireKeepers Casino Hotel. (2021b). Tower II Grand Opening Celebration [Photograph]. https://firekeeperscasino.com/casino/promotions/promotions/tower-ii-grand-opening-celebration/
JCJ Architecture. (2021). FireKeepers Casino and Hotel. https://firekeeperscasino.com/hotel/tower-ii-development/
Toensing, G. C. (2014, November 18). From Dirt Roads to Fiber Optics: FireKeepers Hits the Jackpot. Indian Country Today. https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/from-dirt-roads-to-fiber-optics-firekeepers-hits-the-jackpot