AZ Central – Talking Stick Resort and Casino ready to welcome gamblers

by Peter Corbett – Apr. 15, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Sometime around dawn, the 15-story Talking Stick Resort is scheduled to welcome gamblers to the Valley’s largest casino hotel.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is completing a $440 million project with a 240,000-square-foot Casino Arizona

gambling hall. Players can try their luck at 800 slot machines and 50 tables of blackjack, poker and other card games.

Talking Stick will add close to 500 rooms to metro Phoenix‘s inventory of more than 60,000 rooms at a time when tourism demand remains stunted by the economy.

But resort executives are optimistic that they are entering the hospitality market with a great product at the end of a two-year slump.

“We’re seeing the country coming out of the recession,” said Russ Burbank, Casino Arizona chief operating officer. “We can take the Valley out of the funk and bring it back.”

To do that, Talking Stick has put together a lodging and entertainment package that rivals Scottsdale‘s resorts. It offers convention space, 36 holes of golf, a spa and some Las Vegas casino-hotel flourishes thrown in.

A 640-seat showroom will feature upcoming shows with George Clinton, Brian Wilson, Clint Black, Smokey Robinson, Cheap Trick and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

Talking Stick features 10 lounges and eight restaurants, including an all-day buffet, martini and cigar bar and the Orange Sky fine-dining room on the 15th floor. Private dining coves and an outdoor seating area offer sunset views of Camelback Mountain and the McDowell Mountains. Even the restrooms have a view at Orange Sky.

Tourism leaders said Talking Stick is a great addition that will bolster Scottsdale’s tourism.

“It’s a package that is difficult to compete with,” said Rachel Sacco, Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau president. “We’re lucky it’s here on this side of town.”

The hotel at Talking Stick, with a clean, contemporary design by FFKR Architects, is scheduled to open half its rooms within a week and the remainder by June 10, Burbank said.

A standard room of just under 500 square feet will be $300 in season and $100 in the summer. A 2,000-square-foot presidential suite is $3,500.

All the hotel rooms are non-smoking.

Smoking is allowed in the casino but restricted in the poker room and a small area of slot machines. The casino floor is elevated by 18 inches to allow an upward air flow to vent smoke, Burbank said.

Talking Stick has added about 550 workers and that will push employment to about 3,000 in the tribe’s two casinos along Loop 101 east of Scottsdale. That number includes about 400 tribal members, Burbank said.

The casino will replace a 120,000-square-foot casino that operated for about 11 years in temporary buildings. That casino was set to close at 2 a.m. today. Casino Arizona at Talking Stick Resort was expected to open at 6 a.m.

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