"Water in the river" has been a mantra among Tulsans for years, and local leaders believe the Muscogee (Creek) Nation's new resort development at River Spirit Casino may make it happen.
Between the second phase of the River Spirit Casino, which will cost $335 million, and A Gathering Place for Tulsa, which has a $200 million price tag for its first phase, investors are pumping more than half a billion dollars into riverside developments.
"What's going to happen when, I think, the community sees this project come out of the ground, when the Gathering Place further to the north is built, you're going to see, I think, a lot of excitement, a lot of momentum, that I think will carry us to a lot of our eventual goal of seeing water in the river," said Chris Benge, senior vice president of government affairs for the Tulsa Regional Chamber, while speaking Tuesday at the project's groundbreaking ceremony.
It was a topic mentioned by nearly every speaker at the event, including Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith and Margaritaville CEO John Cohlan.
Keith believes the Margaritaville resort will put Tulsa on the map for travelers.
"We have an incredible entertainment venue that is going to make Tulsa a true destination," she said. "People are going to come from all corners because Margaritaville is here."
Tulsa's resort will be the fourth resort and seventh entertainment property under musician Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville brand. It will include a 26-story, 483-room luxury hotel; a themed casino; a Margaritaville restaurant, bar and shop; a pool with a beach bar; 30,000 square feet of convention space and an entertainment venue with seating for up to 3,000.
Construction will take up to two years. Estimates from River Spirit Casino claim the completed project will support 800 full-time jobs and have an annual economic impact of $135 million.