The Forest County Potawatomi Community held a traditional ground blessing ceremony Thursday to proceed with a $20 million expansion of the Northern Lights Casino in Carter. The construction project is the largest ever in Forest County and will generate hundreds of employment opportunities while promoting area tourism.
"It is an exciting day for the Potawatomi and Forest County," said Tribal Chairman Harold "Gus" Frank.
"The project will provide the short-term benefit of new construction jobs and the long-term benefit of increasing Forest County tourism."
A ground blessing prayer began the ceremony, including the customary sprinkling of tobacco onto the new soil.
Tribal representatives then dug their shovels into the ground and pronounced the expansion project officially underway.
The project includes upgrading the gaming areas with a new poker room and sports bar, along with expanding the existing bingo hall and casino restaurant.
The larger gaming facility will eventually connect to the Potawatomi Springs Lodge, with a new 60-space Recreational Vehicle campground constructed nearby.
The expansion is scheduled for a one-year completion time, with the new casino grand opening targeted for May of 2006.
"The bigger and better casino will enhance the gaming and entertainment experience for our customers," stated Northern Lights casino General Manager Cheryl Waube.
"We have put a lot of work into this and are very excited about the new building. It has been a long journey to put this day together."
The Forest County Potawatomi Community - the largest employer in the county - provides jobs for approximately 800 residents including 250 casino employees.
Improvements are estimated to create an additional 100 casino and hotel jobs.
The expansion will also provide 150 new construction related jobs.
"The Potawatomi considers itself a partner in developing the economy of Forest County," added Frank.
"Moving forward with the Northern Lights Casino Project is part of that commitment."