by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
Ask Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby what he’s most proud of during a term of office that dates all the way back to 1987 and you’d better pull up a chair.
The bright-eyed, beloved 30th governor of the 12th-largest tribe in the U.S. oversees nearly 14,000 employees, more than 300 tribal programs and services and more than 100 tribal businesses.
The latest in that line is a joint venture that should breathe new life into the surrounding Lake Texoma area and Southeastern Oklahoma in the heart of Chickasaw Country.
Late last year the state of Oklahoma and the Chickasaw Nation announced plans to develop a resort hotel and other amenities at Lake Texoma.
It’s an effort to resurrect a failed project that aimed at privatizing the state resort 10 years ago when it was sold to out-of-state investors.
The project excites Gov. Anoatubby on multiple levels.
“This development is another component of our economic development initiatives designed to have a positive impact on the state and local economy,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “It will directly employ dozens of local residents in a number of occupations. We believe it will also have a kind of ripple effect which will strengthen existing businesses in the area as well as bringing other new businesses to the area as a result of increasing the number of visitors to the area.”
“Tourism affects businesses from gas stations and convenience stores to restaurants, sporting goods stores, fishing guides, antique shops and farmers’ markets – and the list goes on.”
The initial plans call for the Chickasaw Nation to construct a three-story hotel, a restaurant and gift shop, a casino featuring up to 300 electronic games and as many as 10 lakefront fishing/boating cottages.
The project covers 50 acres of lakefront property, overlooking Lake Texoma and the historic Roosevelt Bridge. It also involves about 11.5 acres of land acquired by the Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO) from the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.
“We believe this new development will help launch a transformation of this area into a major tourism and recreation attraction,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “This is an incredibly beautiful area with so much to offer, it is really exciting to think of the long-term impact this project could have on the area.”
Gov. Anoatubby envisions the project as the kind of place seniors can take their families. There’s something for everyone.
The hotel will include a lounge and meeting rooms, an outdoor pool and recreation area, a fitness center, gift shop, restaurant and a business center, he said.
The development will be off U.S. 70, across from the Chickasaw Pointe Golf Course near the site of the old Lake Texoma State Lodge. Preliminary plans allow for future expansion of the hotel and the construction of additional waterfront cottages.
Gov. Anoatubby said the state has so much to offer with its natural beauty. It’s one of the reasons the tribe has invested in the state through its Adventure Road program, which highlights different areas up and down I-35.
Designed to bring more tourism to Oklahoma, the Adventure Road initiative generated more than 385,000 new trips to the area last year alone, bringing in approximately $647 million in spending from March to September, according to Gov. Anoatubby.
The tribe is also investing in a new information center in Tishomingo, closely located to Lake Texoma which will complement the project.
It’s another feather in the cap of an already stellar career.
“Our mission is to enhance the quality of life of the Chickasaw people so it is gratifying to see the results of our efforts,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “Many of our services are designed to offer opportunities to pursue a higher education, advance in one’s career, or start a business.”
There are countless examples of Chickasaws who have seized those opportunities and achieved success.
“It is gratifying to see Chickasaws who have utilized tribal services, make it a point to come back home to work for the tribe.”
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said she has been a long-time believer in the potential of the Lake Texoma area to be an economic driver in Oklahoma.
“This project will create jobs and revenue for southern Oklahoma while at the same time maintaining the beauty of the site,” said Fallin. “The Lake Texoma lodge and golf course for many years were a top tourist attraction in the region. This hotel and commercial development will be the catalyst to stimulate significantly greater economic development in the future. I appreciate Governor Anoatubby’s vision and willingness to partner with the state of Oklahoma to continue our joint efforts focusing on tourism in this beautiful and strategically located part of our state.”