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Chickasaw Nation breaks ground on destination development OKANA Resort & Indoor Waterpark in OKC

The skeleton of the $400 million resort under construction along the Oklahoma River will start to rise from the ground over the next few weeks, Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Commerce Dan Boren said.

When the OKANA Resort & Indoor Waterpark opens in spring 2025 – adjacent to the First Americans Museum – it will be “a crown jewel of the crossroads of America,” Boren said.

OKANA will be a destination for families to come stay for several days with its 4.5-acre outdoor lagoon lined with sandy beaches, 100,000-square-foot indoor water park and 33,000-square-foot family entertainment center.

The resort will feature an 11-story, 404-room hotel; conference center space; a retail gallery where Native artists can sell their artwork and jewelry; 36,000 square feet of leasable retail, dining and entertainment space; and a 550-space parking garage.

It is expected to draw 500,000 visitors annually, with 53% coming from out of state, spokesman Chad Clayborn told the Oklahoma City Council in May. The 10-year combined direct and indirect economic impact is projected to be $1.3 billion with 985 jobs per year, he said.

At that time, the anticipated opening was nearly a year earlier than the current projection. Boren said Manhattan Construction Co. has managed the project well through rising labor costs, delays in receiving materials and inflation.

While gaming still is the primary driver of income, the tribe’s diverse portfolio of more than 100 business holdings also includes manufacturing, energy, health care, media, technology, hospitality, retail and tourism, Boren said.

Three of the largest diversified businesses are Chickasaw Nation Industries, Chickasaw Community Bank and Global Gaming Solutions, which includes Remington Park in Oklahoma City and Lone Star Park near the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

Chickasaw Community Bank is about to open a nearly 33,000-square-foot building at 7420 W. Memorial Rd. in northwest Oklahoma City to serve as its new headquarters.

“We recognize this area’s potential for economic growth, for innovation and infrastructure development, and we want to be a driving force behind that development,” Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said at the groundbreaking.

The building features 79 offices, six conference rooms and a multipurpose area for training and events. The bank has been in operation for nearly two decades and employs 200 people.

Chickasaw Community Bank is a full-service financial institution and the largest provider of U.S. Housing and Urban Development Section 184 loans in the country, Boren said. With Section 184 financing, American Indian and Alaska Native borrowers can get into a home with a low down payment and flexible underwriting. Section 184 loans can be used, both on and off Native lands, for new construction, rehabilitation, purchase of an existing home or refinance.

Another large Oklahoma City project the Chickasaws are involved in is the recent purchase of downtown’s iconic Skirvin Hilton. Ortus Hotel Investments of Oklahoma City and Sovereign Properties Holdco announced in December they had purchased the stately 111-year-old hotel along with other investors and plan a $15 million renovation.

Sovereign Properties Holdco, founded in 2012, is a business subsidiary and investment vehicle wholly owned by the Chickasaw Nation. It is headquartered in Ada. The company has more than 25 real estate investments from land to rental properties to hotels such as the Skirvin and Riverwind Hotel.

“The Skirvin Hilton is one of Oklahoma City’s most beloved historic places as many residents and visitors know its storied past and have followed its revitalization and reopening in 2007. We believe our investment fits hand-in-glove with our OKANA project just east of downtown,” Anoatubby said.

While SPH primarily invests in the commercial and multi-use real estate sectors, the firm seized the opportunity to help preserve the landmark and partner with Mark Beffort, who has a proven record of sound investments in historic and commercial properties, Boren said.

“We think it’s going to be a very wise business decision,” he said.

Business revenues provide funding for more than 200 programs and services, such as health care, housing and education for Chickasaw citizens and First Americans. The Chickasaw Nation employs 14,000 people in its many businesses and programs.

Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Commerce Dan Boren said the OKANA resort will employ about 400 people at first and make an annualized economic impact of about $97 million in its first year of operation. It's estimated the 10-year economic impact of the development will exceed $1 billion. Eventually, full-time employment is projected to expand to as many as 800 direct and indirect jobs annually with a payroll of about $320 million over a 10-year period.

During the construction phase, about 1,400 jobs will be connected with the project with about $80.7 million in payroll, according to a study done by Hotel & Leisure Providers.

"The projected 10-year taxation impact for this project is $107 million to the state of Oklahoma, $86.7 million to Oklahoma City and $3.2 million to Oklahoma County," Boren said.


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