SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The Crown Plaza Hotel has been a centerpiece on the Saint Paul skyline. Now, it is to be the centerpiece of Native American presence in Minnesota's Capital City.
The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe will announce officially on Monday that they are buying the 470 room Crown Plaza and the 250 room Doubletree Hilton Hotels. However, Joseph Nayquonabe, Jr., Commissioner of Corporate Affairs for the Band, talked with Kare11's Allen Costantini on Friday.
"Basically, we closed on the hotels this past Thursday," said Nayquonabe. "Like any other business, it is not very smart to have all your eggs in one basket. So, this new investment in Saint Paul is kind of the first big step for the Mille Lacs Band to diversify outside of gaming in a big way."
In an answer to questions about extending the Band's Mille Lacs and Hinckley Casinos into Saint Paul, Nayquonabe reiterated that "there is no gaming involved in this project."
"It is a fantastic thing for Saint Paul," said Matt Kramer, President of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. "They are going to be putting money into these (hotels). They have got a really interesting, strong experience in the hospitality industry for the last 20-some years. They know how to do this. That is going to raise the tide for everybody in Saint Paul."
Kramer expects the street scene around the properties to change. "They have told us, they are going to open up the street level and, predictably, given the craze, I am sure there will be coffee and little patio tables to sit at while you are drinking you coffee. They are really going to make it much more visible from the street level," said Kramer.
Details of the sales are to come on Monday, but Nayquonabe tried to put workers fears to rest.
"The main reason that we really liked the hotels and liked the opportunity is the people," said Nayquonabe. "The associates are great. There are great teams at both of the properties and we are interested in maintaining those jobs. We are also interested in increasing business there, so that we can increase job opportunities here in Saint Paul."
Nayquonabe and other representatives of the Mille Lacs Band met with business leaders from Saint Paul on Friday morning to reassure them about the Band's intentions for the two hotels.
"It was really important for the major employers in downtown Saint Paul to get a sense of what is going to happen next," said Kramer. "These two hotels are really the cornerstone of the core part of downtown and so getting them refreshed and, as they talked about this morning, not only putting some money into bringing them up, but also creating more of a presence."
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