Wa She Shu Travel Plaza celebrates first anniversary in Gardnerville
This story was first published in the May 2017 edition of First Nation’s Focus.
GARDNERVILLE, Nev. — The Washoe Tribe is a federally recognized Indian tribe located in Gardnerville, Nevada, situated about 20 miles south of Lake Tahoe, organized pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.
The Tribe is composed of nearly 1,500 enrolled members, and has four reservations: Stewart, Carson Colony, Hung A Lel Ti Community, and Dresslerville Community.
The Washoe Tribal government is composed of the supreme governing body known as the Washoe Tribal Council made up of twelve (12) members, including a Tribal Chairman.
The Washoe Tribal Council current elected officers is Chairman Neil Mortimer; Vice-Chairwoman Deirdre Jones Flood; Secretary-Treasurer Jeremy Steele; and additional Councilmembers: Jacqueline Steele, Stan Smokey, Irvin Jim, Rueben Vasquez, Willie Smokey, Chad Malone, Gary Nevers, Mahlon Machado, and Lorraine Keller.
Beginning in 2014, the Tribal Council began the process of meeting the requirements in order to qualify for New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) and to utilize funding to increase economic development on the Washoe reservation to build a Travel Plaza.
Nearly three years later, and situated next to the Wa She Shu Casino, the Travel Plaza is 6,000 square feet and cost nearly $11.78 million to construct from the ground up. This process involved dedication from the current and previous Washoe Tribal Council, Tribal employees, Tribal Committees, and the endless support of the Washoe Tribal members.
The development of the Travel Plaza on the reservation was the first of its kind in the State of Nevada, and generated approximately 125 jobs in the low-income community.
The Clearinghouse (CDFI) provided key financial resources to the project, including: $10 million of Federal New Market Tax Credit allocation, $2 millions of Nevada State New Market Tax allocation, and a $5.6 million loan to the Washoe Tribe.
“The New Market Tax Credits have been instrumental in the success of the Travel Plaza —partnering with the Poarch Creek Indians has also been fundamental in our economic endeavors. The goal is to improve the lives of the Washoe Tribal membership through economic development, and so far, we have had great success in employing Tribal and community members at both entities,” states Chairman Neil Mortimer.
As a part of the financial package, the Tribe organized a charitable organization, the “Wa She Shu Foundation,” which is officially recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
In addition, the Wa She Shu Casino completed construction in May 2015 and is a 13,500 square foot facility that boasts a 4,600 square foot gaming floor featuring 130 state-of-the-art games. There is a family style restaurant that comfortably seats 80 guests, hosting the only buffet in the Carson Valley, as well as a bar.
An additional 4,000 square feet is designated for future expansion of the gaming floor. The first partnership of its kind, the Washoe Tribal entity “Washoe Gaming Development” leases the land to “Poarch Creek Indian Gaming Commission” for gaming operations, which is regulated by the Washoe Tribe Gaming Commission.
The official grand opening of the Wa She Shu Casino was held on May 25, 2016, and was opened exclusively for Washoe Tribal membership and proved to be not only a financial success, but a community success as well.
In celebration of the one-year anniversary, the Wa She Shu Casino is hosting the “First Annual Hand Game Tournament” with a $500.00 payout Friday, May 19, will be a bone hog tournament. The main tournament will be Saturday, May 20, for $5,000.00 prize pool.
Visit http://www.washeshucasino.com to learn more.
I am over the moon with how strong our school-community relationship is, how easy it was to grow, and surprised by the willingness of my community, students and parents alike, to move in this direction too.