Umatillas receive $22.6 M in tribal development bonds

By John Trumbo, Herald staff writer September 22, 2009 

PENDLETON -- The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have hit a $22.6 million jackpot with tribal economic development bonds provided through federal economic stimulus funds.

The money is part of $1 billion awarded this week to 58 tribes across the country. The money must be used to create jobs, complete projects and provide economic revitalization for Indian nations -- none of which can be directly tied to gaming.

"Our intent is to add on and build a larger hotel, swimming pool with water features and a spa," said Gary George, chief operating officer for the Umatilla tribes' Wildhorse Casino in Pendleton.

He said the $22,565,088 awarded gives the Umatillas much-needed financing to proceed with expansion plans for the 100-room hotel, which was built in 1996.

"We've been talking about this for three years," George said.

He said plans call for 200 more rooms to go with the existing golf course and museum. An architect has been contacted and construction could start as soon as the end of the year, he said.

George said the Umatilla tribes want to invest the money into developing their casino and ancillary businesses into a destination resort for the Pendleton area. The vision includes an events center and retail spaces that would be available for members of the reservation who want to start a business.

The Umatilla tribes asked for $30 million in their application for the stimulus money. Bond grants were given according to the amounts requested, but none was greater than $22.56 million, of which there were 30 awarded.

In Washington, two tribes also received $22.56 million. The Spokane Tribe plans to use the money to develop a tourism facility, infrastructure, a manufacturing facility and low-income housing.

The Lummi Nation, which is in the Bellingham area, has plans for environmental and transportation infrastructure projects.

* John Trumbo: 509-582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com

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