KESHENA – The Menominee Casino Resort broke ground Monday on renovations for its Keshena tribal gaming facility.
Casino officials say the $8 million renovations, when complete, will give guests a “world-class casino experience.”
"It's a big step for us," said Jim Reiter, the facility’s general manager. "Once it starts, now, there's no looking back and it’s going to go hard and fast."
With ground officially broken, work will now begin on centralizing table and poker gaming areas. Old slot machines will be removed and replaced with new ones.
Guests will be greeted with a better ventilation system designed to more efficiently eliminate tobacco smoke.
The bar and lounge will be expanded; and guests will be greeted by a new resort entrance.
"We want to offer the best possible service we can to everybody," said Reiter.
Kenosha Casino plans separate
The renovations are completely separate from the tribe's efforts to build an $800 million casino in Kenosha.
Governor Scott Walker has said he will not sign off on that project unless Wisconsin's 11 tribes agree to it.
The Wisconsin Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk are against it, fearing it will cut into their operations in the area.
"That won't change at all," said Collin Price, public relations officer for the Ho-Chunk tribe. "We don't have any objection or any issue with the expansion project. In fact, I think it's a good thing they're building their entertainment center/gaming experience and along with that hopefully adding some more jobs for the area."
The Potawatomi agree that the expansion is good for the Menominee and a separate issue from their efforts to build the Kenosha casino.
“The governor's laid out a process and that is moving forward,” said Potawatomi spokesperson George Ermert. “So the Potawatomi continue to work with the Department of Administration on that process."
The Bureau of Indian Affairs extended the governor's deadline to make a decision on the Menominee's plans until next February.
The Department of Administration says it is still sifting through information – looking at the project's complexity and impact on the state.
”Our tribe has always reached out to both tribes,” said Menominee Tribe chairwoman Laurie Boivin.
Boivin says the tribe has the same motivations in Kenosha and Keshena.
"Create additional jobs; bring in additional revenue for the tribe, that's a good thing. It creates more opportunity for tribal membership," said Boivin.
The Keshena renovations are expected to be finished by this fall.