Liv­ing Sky cel­e­brates past 10 years; ex­cit­ing fu­ture ...

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Front Page - BY MATTHEW LIEBENBERG— mlieben­berg@prairiepost.com

The con­struc­tion of a casino with a per­form­ing arts cen­tre in Swift Cen­tre only hap­pened af­ter a lot of de­bate in the com­mu­nity and even a plebiscite, but 10 years later the Liv­ing Sky Casino has be­come a sig­nif­i­cant com­mu­nity part­ner.

The Liv­ing Sky Casino hosted a 10th an­niver­sary gala on Sept. 28 to start the cel­e­bra­tion of a decade in the com­mu­nity. There will be a va­ri­ety of events and en­ter­tain­ment over the next five months to mark the oc­ca­sion.

Speak­ers at the gala re­flected on the rel­e­vance of that de­ci­sion to al­low the con­struc­tion of a casino in Swift Cur­rent.

Alice Pah­tayken, who was the chief of the Neka­neet First Na­tion at that time, said it was a mile­stone when the casino was built in Treaty 4 ter­ri­tory, and the Neka­neet First Na­tion is proud and hon­oured to be the landowner of Liv­ing Sky Casino.

“We had cer­e­monies when this was started,” she men­tioned. “We had the el­ders' sup­port and the mem­bers of Neka­neet.”

Alvin Francis, the cur­rent chief of the Neka­neet First Na­tion, said ev­ery­one can be proud that they were able to do this to­gether.

“I be­lieve we can co-ex­ist and live in har­mony for a long pe­riod of time, as long as we keep talk­ing to each other and build the re­la­tion­ship stronger,” he noted.

Ron Crowe was the chair of the File Hills Qu'Ap­pelle Tribal Coun­cil and he con­trib­uted to bring­ing the casino to Swift Cur­rent. He con­grat­u­lated the com­mu­nity on the part­ner­ships and the re­la­tion­ships that have been built over the past 10 years.

“We couldn't have imag­ined in the early days the kind of suc­cess this place would have, not only in devel­op­ing a place like this, but some of the re­la­tion­ships that have taken place through eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, so­cial de­vel­op­ment, the hous­ing ini­tia­tives that have taken place in help­ing the com­mu­nity,” he said. “It goes be­yond just a gam­ing es­tab­lish­ment.”

Me­lanie Friesen, the past pres­i­dent of the Swift Cur­rent Arts Coun­cil, re­ferred to the ef­forts of the late Paul Rezan­soff, who dreamed of a per­form­ing arts cen­tre in the com­mu­nity. His co­op­er­a­tion with the Saskatchewan In­dian Gam­ing Au­thor­ity (SIGA) re­sulted in the ad­di­tion of the event cen­tre to the casino.

“With it's state of the art light­ing and sound sys­tem and 576 seats, the event cen­tre pro­vides the per­fect venue for the many qual­ity acts that the Swift Cur­rent Arts Coun­cil and the Liv­ing Sky Casino bring to Swift Cur­rent,” Friesen said. “The artists that per­form in our Stars for Saskatchewan se­ries are al­ways so amazed at this high qual­ity venue.”

A num­ber of speak­ers re­ferred to the feel­ings of skep­ti­cism that ex­isted in the com­mu­nity about the idea of build­ing a casino in the city.

The City of Swift Cur­rent's Direc­tor of Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Marty Sal­berg re­called that se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion about the idea of a casino al­ready started some 17 years ago, but it took time to be­come a re­al­ity. There were some lo­cal com­ments that a casino will con­trib­ute to more crime, bro­ken homes and other prob­lems, but none of those things hap­pened.

Tourism Swift Cur­rent Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Lee Friesen re­ferred to the casino plebiscite, which took place on Oct. 22, 2003 on the day of the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion.

“Swift Cur­rent was a dif­fer­ent place 15 years ago,” he said. “Some would say it was a quiet place. At the time there was some peo­ple who wanted to keep it that way. There were oth­ers who thought it should grow. That led to many dis­cus­sions and there was more than one town hall meet­ing.”

In the plebiscite the com­mu­nity was asked to ap­prove the pro­posal to build a per­form­ing arts con­ven­tion cen­tre and casino, and 55 per cent voted yes.

Ac­cord­ing to Friesen the casino did not only con­trib­ute to the growth of the com­mu­nity, but it gave the com­mu­nity an op­por­tu­nity to learn more about the coun­try's his­tory and First Na­tion cul­ture, to at­tend a pow wow and to start talk­ing about Treaty 4.

“These are the things that are hap­pen­ing in our com­mu­nity and we are bet­ter for it,” he said.

Tribal Chief Ed­mund Bel­le­garde of the File Hills Qu'Ap­pelle Tribal Coun­cil (FHQTC) said some were sus­pi­cious, ap­pre­hen­sive and skep­ti­cal that a First Na­tions project could be a good thing for the com­mu­nity, but it be­came a re­al­ity through the cre­ation of re­la­tion­ships.

“In the last 10 years it's start­ing to re­ally demon­strate that there's value in re­la­tion­ships, there's value in build­ing bridges, there's value in get­ting to know one an­other, there's value in peace­ful co­ex­is­tence and be­ing good neigh­bours and work­ing to­gether, and that's what we have here,” he em­pha­sized.

The FHQTC has in­vested more than $48 mil­lion in cap­i­tal projects in Swift Cur­rent since 2008, in­clud­ing the casino at just un­der $36 mil­lion, the Home Inn & Suites ho­tel in part­ner­ship with d3h Ho­tels for $8.8 mil­lion, and an af­ford­able hous­ing project with 22 town­homes at a cost of $4.4 mil­lion.

“We'll con­tinue look­ing for other ways to in­vest in the south­west and to con­tinue to add to that legacy of suc­cess,” he said.

Liv­ing Sky Casino Gen­eral Man­ager Trevor Mar­ion pro­vided an over­view of the casino's eco­nomic and so­cial im­pact in the com­mu­nity.

“The pur­pose is to be a part of the com­mu­nity in which you live and work, and lend a help­ing hand when needed,” he said. “As part of SIGA we share suc­cess.”

The casino cur­rently em­ploys 185 peo­ple and 4,600 vol­un­teers hours have been con­trib­uted to the com­mu­nity through the casino's vol­un­teer pro­gram. The casino has con­trib­uted $2.9 mil­lion in sup­port and spon­sor­ships through 347 spon­sor­ship part­ner­ships in­volv­ing 176 dif­fer­ent or­ga­ni­za­tions. Jackpot pay­outs since the casino opened have been about $160 mil­lion.

Casino pa­trons will have op­por­tu­ni­ties to win cash and var­i­ous prizes dur­ing the an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions.

Var­i­ous mu­si­cal en­ter­tain­ers will be part of the an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions, start­ing with a per­for­mance by Swift Cur­rent singer-song­writer Colter Wall on Oct. 10. Cana­dian rock band Trooper will be at the event cen­tre on Nov. 22 and the Stam­ped­ers will per­form on New Year's Eve. Wayne New­ton, who per­formed at the first concert at the event cen­tre, will re­turn for a 10th an­niver­sary ap­pear­ance on Feb. 23.

The spe­cial events and pro­mo­tions at the Hori­zons restau­rant will in­clude a Dec. 28 an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion fea­tur­ing cakelava, the Las Ve­gas wed­ding cake and birth­day cake stu­dio. An­other highlight will be the 10th an­niver­sary pow wow at Ki­netic Ex­hi­bi­tion Park on Feb. 16 and 17.

More de­tails about the 10th an­niver­sary events and en­ter­tain­ment are avail­able on the Liv­ing Sky Casino web­site.

A gift pre­sen­ta­tion was made to dig­ni­taries dur­ing the 10th an­niver­sary gala, Sept. 28. Liv­ing Sky Casino Mar­ket­ing and Guest Ser­vices Man­ager Lind­say Ger­brandt is mak­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion to former Neka­neet First Na­tion Chief Alice Pah­tayken.

Pho­tos by Matthew Liebenberg

The Star­blan­ket Ju­niors per­form an hon­our song dur­ing the Liv­ing Sky Casino's 10th an­niver­sary gala, Sept. 28.

Liv­ing Sky Casino Gen­eral Man­ager Trevor Mar­ion speaks at the 10th an­niver­sary gala, Sept. 28.

Tourism Swift Cur­rent Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Lee Friesen speaks at the Liv­ing Sky Casino's 10th an­niver­sary gala, Sept. 28.

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