Living Sky Casino reflects back on impactful first decade
The Living Sky Casino celebrated a look back at an impactful first decade while kicked off a five month long 10th anniversary celebration surrounding their December 29, 2008 opening.
A 10th anniversary Kick-off Gala was hosted on September 28 to both celebrate their achievements over the past 10 years, in addition to an announcement of a series of celebration events over the coming weeks and months.
A number of the key players during the development years of the Living Sky Casino were in attendance in order to be recognized for their efforts in ensuring the project ultimately came to fruition.
Tribal Chief Edmund Bellegarde, a former CEO of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, provided some key memories of those early efforts. He vividly recalls a phone call from ‘Wild’ Bill Thacker in July 2001, who politically incorrectly straight out asked Bellegarde “How do I get one of those Indian casinos down here in Swift Current?”
Bellegarde decided to call then Tribal Chair Ron Crowe from the File Hills Qu’appelle Tribal Council and the duo ventured to Swift Current to investigate the idea further.
“So that one phone call that didn’t sound very business like, that didn’t sound very compelling, there was a bit of unknowing…just didn’t know how to approach a First Nation organization and maybe some of the protocols. He was just straight up and straight out.”
“So one phone call led to a $36 million development.”
He also remembers being in Swift Current on plebiscite evening on October 22, 2003 when the community voted 55 per cent in support of the casino/ performing arts facility. The Event Centre added $5.5 million in capital costs to the overall project, but was integral in the casino moving forward.
“That was the vision and the compelling nature of the late Paul Rezansoff and the Swift Current Allied Arts Council. He had a vision. He wanted to get out of the High School and the temporary chairs. He wanted state of the art,” Bellegarde recalls.
“We believe that this was the value added to the proposal to that plebiscite question on October 22, 2003, that made a difference. That compelled some who were suspicious, apprehensive, skeptical, that a First Nations project like the casino could be a
Swift Current Arts Council President Melanie Friesen, Chief Alice Pahtayken from Nekaneet First Nation, Tourism Swift Current Executive Director Lee Friesen, Chief Alvin Francis, City of Swift Current Director of Business Development Marty Salberg, former Swift Current Mayor Sandy Larson, former Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority CEO Edmund Bellegarde and former File Hills Qu’appelle Tribal Council Chief Ron Crowe were all recognized for their efforts in helping the Living Sky Casino get off the ground.