Gun Lake Casino Tribe Continues Expansion, Plans Mixed-Use Development Near Resort
The Gun Lake Casino in Wayland, Mi., is undergoing a $300 million renovation and expansion. But the project that will bring a 252-room hotel and 32,000-square-foot indoor “aquadome” won’t be the only thing new at the tribal resort.
The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians — more commonly referred to as the Gun Lake Tribe — has been purchasing undeveloped land between its casino and the small town of Wayland for the past several years.
The federally recognized tribe recently announced what it plans to do with the roughly 1,200 acres it now owns between Gun Lake Casino and Wayland proper. Tribal leaders revealed to MiBiz that the goal is to transform the approximately 2.75-mile stretch of land along US 131 in Allegan County into a mixed-use development.
“The planning phase will really be about figuring out what are our constraints and opportunities, and what we can target first,” Monica King, CEO of Gun Lake Investments, the tribe’s non-gaming investment vehicle, told MiBiz.
King said the corridor will be developed over the next two decades.
“Twelve hundred acres is so significant and it will be its own ecosystem. We do have a couple of projects [in development] that we want to fast track and that we hope to break ground on next year,” King explained.
Hotel, Restaurants, Office Space
The Gun Lake Casino is about 20 miles south of Grand Rapids and 30 miles east of Lake Michigan. Not much is happening in Wayland, as the town is home to less than 4,500 people.
The stretch between the rural casino and the town is presently occupied by cornfields and wooded areas. The Gun Lake Tribe is mulling an assortment of potential developments on the stretch, including a 15-story hotel, restaurants, retail shopping centers, and an array of office space.
The goal is no more cornfields,” Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians Tribal Chair Bob Peters told News 8 this week. “The skyline from the casino to Wayland is going to dramatically change over the next few years.”
The Gun Lake Casino is currently undergoing dramatic change. Just months after the tribe completed a $100 million renovation of its primary economic resource that saw 76,000 square feet of additional gaming space added, Gun Lake announced in April 2021 that it would invest another $300 million into the casino to make the gaming venue a full-scale resort with an on-site hotel and all of the expected amenities.
Planning of the more substantial expansion phase took considerable time, with the tribe in May 2022 finally breaking ground on the development.
The $300 million spend will result in Gun Lake Casino offering guests more than 250 hotel rooms, plus the indoor aquadome where three distinct pool areas will provide year-round swimming. The aquadome will provide three resort-style pool offerings, with one reserved only for guests aged 21 and older. Another will be for families and the third pool section for guests seeking a quieter refuge.
Enlarging Tribal Presence
The Gun Lake Tribe’s property acquisition spree will only end when neighboring landowners say no additional acreage is available for sale.
We’ll acquire lands whenever we can,” Peters continued. “Anything that’s contiguous to our property, we want to put into trust.”
Any land acquired by the tribe can only be placed in the federal trust by the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Federally recognized tribes must prove a historical link to any land recently acquired in order for the DOI to designate the land as sovereign tribal territory.
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