Turtle Mountain Progress – Additions Being Made to Skydancer Hotel and Casino

Minot Daily News, by Kim Fundingsland

BELCOURT, North Dakota. – Excellent progress is being made toward a very big day for the Belcourt area. An impressive six-story addition to the Sky Dancer Hotel and Casino is scheduled to be completed by Nov, 1, 2012. The facility is expected to boost tourism and spur additional economic development in the region.

Joseph Edman, owner’s representative for Construction Engineers of Grand Forks, said the addition will house 96 rooms, including several suites complete with fireplaces. The existing facility, after some renovation, will contain another 95 rooms. The lower level of the new addition will house the casino. It will be larger than the current casino and with many more amenities.

“It’s going to be one of your state-of-the-art casinos,” said Richard McCloud, CEO, Sky Dancer Hotel and Casino. “It should be one of the best-looking casinos in the state. That’s what we are shooting for.”

The existing casino and restaurant area is due for a makeover once the new facility is open to the public.

“The second phase, which is remodeling the existing facility, will start in November,” said Edman. “We’re shooting for a grand opening there in May of 2013.”

The old casino will be remade into an events center. It is there where a variety of entertainment, from concerts to martial arts, will be on center stage.

“Tourism is the third largest industry in North Dakota and we just want to capitalize on what’s out there,” said Leah McCloud, Turtle Mountain tourism director. “How do we get them here? That’s why we are developing.”

Rooms in the new hotel feature very large windows that offer a commanding view of the Turtle Mountain region. The six-story structure sits atop one of the highest hills in the region. It is to be topped off with a “swoof,” a headdress common to the Chippewa, and will be visible for many miles in any direction. The exterior walls of the building will also call attention to the facility, particularly after dark.

“The skin of our casino is going to actually glow in the night and early evenings,” explained Richard McCloud. “There’s no other building like this in the state, I don’t believe.”

“Tourism in the Turtle Mountains and economic development go hand in hand,” said Les Thomas, Turtle Mountain Heritage Center board chairman.

Recent improvements to Chippewa Downs, a horse racing track at Belcourt, included a new roping arena. It is hoped that development in the area continues, spurred by the expansion at Sky Dancer.

“We want to be a premier destination for our visitors,” said Leah McCloud.

According to Richard McCloud, goals reach beyond the completion of the expansion and renovation projects at Sky Dancer. A softball complex is already on the grounds. There is a special parking area to accommodate RVs. With ample room for further development in the casino area, he envisions attracting other businesses to the vicinity.

“We’re looking at developing, bringing in shopping centers and the like. We’re continuing to work on economic development,” said Richard McCloud. “Our goal is to actually build a resort here.”

Belcourt will, says Thomas, continue to become a year-round destination for visitors. It is hoped that additional hotel rooms, a new events center and a solid vision for the region’s future will make that a reality.