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Developers detail proposed casino, hotel

OACOMA — A five-story hotel, a water park and a 27,000-square-foot events center are part of an expanded $52.5 million Oacoma casino plan that the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe is attempting to get approved near Interstate 90.

Those proposed plans were detailed Thursday during public scoping meetings held in Chamberlain and at the tribe's community center in Lower Brule. The project was initially presented to the public in February 2013.

Despite the new, detailed plans, Oacoma Town Board President Mike Schreiber hasn't seen anything that indicates a change in the town's opposition of the project. He said there still are questions about the costs.

"It's nice to have the extra information," he said Friday in an interview with The Daily Republic. "There's a huge lack of detailed figures and information that we really need to know about regarding who's going to be responsible for what."

The project is broken into two separate phases, with the first consisting of the single-floor casino, an 800-seat theatre and a nearby truck stop. The first phase would cost $34 million. But developers showed off a second phase of the project this week that would cost $18.5 million and would include a five-story hotel with 75 guest rooms, an outdoor pool and waterpark and plans for adding on to the existing theatre complex.

"This project means a lot to our tribe and I think it will mean a lot to the communities of Oacoma and Chamberlain as well," Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Chairman Michael Jandreau said Thursday night at a meeting in Chamberlain. "I believe it will organize a lot of activities that will grow businesses and incomes in the area."

Oacoma has already indicated its opposition to the project. In October, the town submitted a 38-page response to the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, outlining the town's objections focused on the high water and sewer infrastructure costs associated with the project.

Schreiber referenced engineers who spoke at the meeting about wanting to sit down with local leaders and work out concerns regarding the project.

"I anxiously await that," Schreiber said. "There's a whole lot of issues and questions that need answering."

The second phase would come years after the first, according to Richard Rangel, who is working with the tribe as the developer. It's estimated that the construction of the casino and truck stop would take 24 months, but those projects first need approval from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

The casino would have 500 slots and 12 table games, according to Randy Lindemann, who represented the tribe's architecture firm, Lawal Scott Erickson Architects, of Minneapolis. It would also include a buffet, a steakhouse and a snack bar, which would accommodate more than 230 customers. The casino would also include an 11,000-square-foot entertainment complex with seating for up to 800.

Lindemann said the casino's design and ambiance is still a work in progress and he said details regarding the casino's theme would have to still be worked out. He said many of the elements in the design are still conceptual.

The third-party engineering firm doing the environmental assessment for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson, of Bismarck, N.D., also conducted traffic studies on the area near Exit 260 on I-90.

The firm recommended that state Highway 16, which would be the frontage road to the casino, would be able to handle the expected traffic loads of about 3,000 cars per day at a speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Those counts were taken in December, and the firm said it would count again this summer to get an understanding of the seasonal traffic.