FIREKEEPERS CASINO HOTEL
After more than 10 years of planning, strategy and vision, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi opened the doors to FireKeepers Casino in August of 2009. The property features a 111,700-square foot gaming floor with 2,900 slot machines, 70 table games, multiple restaurants and lounges, a live poker room and bingo room. This $300 million project created a unique gaming destination in the mid-west all while initially creating 1,500 jobs for the local community. FireKeepers Casino Hotel is located just off Interstate 94 at Exit 104 in Battle Creek, Michigan and is a favorite gaming destination for residents in central and southern Michigan, northern Indiana and western Ohio.
Less than two years later, on March 1, 2011, FireKeepers Casino broke ground on a major expansion. This initiative included an 8-story resort-style hotel and expanded Bingo room. During this construction phase the tribe’s commitment to local spending resulted in awarding contracts that total more than $25 million to the State of Michigan.
FireKeepers hotel expansion opened its doors to the public on December 12, 2012. The expansion showcased a 243 room resort-style hotel complete with indoor pool, exercise facility, full service restaurant named Smoke ‘n Fire, and business center. The addition also features a functional multi-purpose event center that is capable of seating up to 2,000 guests as a concert venue. When not in use as a concert venue for superstar performers such as Tony Bennett, ZZ Top and Tim Allen, the versatile space can accommodate banquets, corporate meetings, trade shows, and other events. This expansion brought 300 additional jobs to the Battle Creek area.
FireKeepers Casino Hotel, in just over two years of operation, has been named a Four Diamond Hotel by AAA, one of the hospitality industry’s premier honors. The 243 room hotel, featuring 26 suites, earns an achievement that ranks FireKeepers as a premier establishment esteemed by AAA’s professional inspectors. The Four Diamond recognition is given to just five percent of the more than 28,000 approved by AAA properties rated each year. FireKeepers received this award again in 2016.
In April 2016, FireKeepers casino renovated guest favorite Café 24/7 restaurant. The new design was developed by Kalamazoo architects, Seven Generations Architecture and Engineering and construction was directed by Moore Trosper Construction of Holt, Michigan. The refreshed atmosphere combines an old-school diner feel with new modern features such as contemporary lighting, stylish graphics, and even a chalkboard wall to write specials. The Café 24/7 menu will feature new, fresh items, as well as some of the classic favorites like the All American Burger, Hot Turkey Sandwich and Chicken Pot Pie.
Also in April 2016, FireKeepers announced another expansion to the property, which would introduce a convenience store and gas station located adjacent to the casino. The convenience store and gas station, named “FireKeepers Pit Stop”, features a car wash, a convenience store with various food and beverage items, as well as a place to fill up your gas tank while visiting FireKeepers. The FireKeepers Pit Stop opened November 1, 2016.
Local and State Revenue Sharing Board
February 2016 - The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Contribute a Record $21.8 Million to Benefit The State of Michigan and Local Communities Contribution By Owners of FireKeepers Casino Hotel Is Over Seven Percent Greater Than 2014. The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP), owners of FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek, Mich., announced that it has established a new annual record with $21.9 million in payments to the State of Michigan and the FireKeepers Local Revenue Sharing Board (FLRSB). The payment to the state of Michigan totals more than $16.6 million, an increase of 7.8 percent over the 2014 payment while the payment, to the FireKeepers Local Revenue Sharing Board (FLRSB) of over $5.3 million is 5.3 percent higher than one year ago. This brings the total monies the NHBP has contributed to the State of Michigan to $90 million and $32.2 million to the FLRSB, and creates a combined contribution which exceeds $122 million since FireKeepers Casino Hotel opened in August 2009.
The Fire Hub
Having completed a detailed approval phase, construction crews are moving ahead on FireKeepers Casino’s unique casino community investment, The Fire Hub, restaurant and food pantry in Battle Creek. Menu design, hiring and general planning at the historic Fire Station # 4 are also moving forward, with a targeted grand opening planned for spring 2017.
Jen Ozolins was recently named Head Chef of The Fire Hub. Chef Ozolins will oversee all aspects of the project, including menu design, staffing, food development, etc. She has worked at FireKeepers since opening, working her way up from Production Cook, and will continue to provide the same premier level of food and service qualities FireKeepers guests have come to expect at the Fire Hub. Hiring for kitchen and wait staff is expected to begin early in 2017.
Ozolins is currently developing an upscale, yet affordable, menu featuring a delicious selection of breakfast items, soups, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, pizzas and, of course, desserts. “Jen has done an amazing job developing a menu that the Battle Creek community will relish,” stated Chef Michael McFarlen, Fire Hub visionary and Vice President of Food and Beverage at FireKeepers Casino Hotel. “This initiative creates multiple different avenues for FireKeepers to improve lives and create a new culinary option in downtown Battle Creek. We are really excited about this new endeavor and eagerly anticipate an early 2017 Grand Opening.”
A first of its kind non-profit hands-on investment by a casino operator, The Fire Hub will blend a restaurant with large gardens to grow food designed to create a free salad bar at local schools and a food pantry to provide a dignified store concept to help those less fortunate. FireKeepers Casino Hotel and its owners, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi purchased Fire Station #4 located on the corner of Kendall Street and Dickman Road in Battle Creek. Construction is being managed by Michigan-based, family-owned Moore Trosper Construction Company.
While the Fire Hub will contain various “spokes” of a business including a restaurant, an artisan bakery and much needed downtown meeting space, the most important goal is to give back to the community. The project will accomplish this goal via multiple programs. First, the rear section of the building will become the home of The Kendall Street Pantry, a food pantry that will serve as an agency of the Food Bank of South Central Michigan, distributing food from shelves to those less fortunate. Secondly, farmable land will be cultivated and Hoop Houses purchased to grow food, with a goal of providing a free salad bar for downtown schools in Battle Creek. Third is the creation of a fund to support local charities, with 80% of all restaurant profits and an allocation of 50 cents from every restaurant check providing the monies. The remaining 20% of profits will be reinvested in the property.
FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship
FireKeepers has hosted the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship, a Symetra Tour Road to the LPGA event, for the past three years. The tournament is held each summer at Battle Creek Country Club, located at 318 Country Club Dr., Battle Creek, Mich. Battle Creek Country Club, a private members only course, designed by Willie Park, Jr., opened in 1919. The course features 6,744 yards of golf.
FireKeepers Casino Hotel donates all profits earned from the championship to S.A.F.E. Place women’s shelter. S.A.F.E. Place is committed to helping victims of domestic violence and their families in Barry, Eaton, and Calhoun Counties. Offering a range of social intervention and advocacy services; S.A.F.E. Place stresses early intervention, strengthening families, and providing a continuum of care through community resources and referrals. S.A.F.E. Place provides shelter, court advocacy, referrals and comprehensive counseling programs for women and children who have been physically, verbally, or emotionally abused.
FireKeepers Casino Hotel continues to build upon a strong community partnership with S.A.F.E Place. FireKeepers has contributed to S.A.F.E. Place by participating in various events, including the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” and the “Celebrity Server” events. Many FireKeepers and NHBP team members provide countless hours of volunteer work for S.A.F.E. Place, chairing committees and serving on the Board of Directors. These include George Jenkot, Vice President of Security and Surveillance at FireKeepers Casino Hotel, who serves as President and Christine Lanning, Tribal Council Secretary for the NHBP, who serves as a board member. Over the past 5 years FireKeepers team members have volunteered at countless S.A.F.E Place events. The total number of volunteers comes to over 150 team members with volunteer hours totaling over 1,000.
Donation Drives and Charitable Giving
Every year FireKeepers Casino Hotel participates in an array of local initiatives to benefit a variety of organizations within the community. These include blood, food, toy and coat drives. FireKeepers has participated in a food drive every year since opening in 2009. In 2009 alone, Team Members donated an entire pallet worth of non-perishable items to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Basket Food Drive and three pallets of bulk food to the Salvation Army’s Soup Kitchen. In 2015, FireKeepers collected over 1,000 pounds of food, with a 5 year total of over 5,000 pounds to be donated to the Food Bank of South Central Michigan. Since opening, more than 750 team members have donated to the various organizations.
In 2016, for the seventh consecutive year, FireKeepers contributed to area food banks prior to the start of the holiday season. Five local areas were selected to receive 200 turkeys each. These have included the Food Bank of South Central Michigan located in Battle Creek, Food Gatherers in Ann Arbor, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank in Comstock Park, Community Harvest Food Bank in Fort Wayne, and Food Bank of Eastern Michigan in Flint. Overall, a total of 5,000 turkeys have been donated to local food banks.
Since its opening in 2012, the Hotel has donated hundreds of hotel rooms to a variety of different organizations and local businesses in need. FireKeepers has also given a total of over $150,000 in monetary donations and gifts-in-kind to local organizations. These organizations include lions clubs, community foundations, PTAs, and animal rescues.
The players have spoken. And the message is loud and clear. FireKeepers is the region’s best. And the accolades come from far and wide.
FireKeepers Casino Hotel won over 23 awards in the Best of Gaming 2015 Native Midwest category by the readers of Casino Player Magazine. These awards include:
Best Overall Gaming Resort
Best Slot Tournaments
Best Casino To Play Video Poker
Best Casino to Play Blackjack
Best Place To Play Roulette
The readers of Fort Wayne Newspaper named us “Best Casino” and “Best Place to Gamble”.
The viewers of WWMT-TV recently named FireKeepers Casino Hotel “Best Casino in West Michigan.”
Several of our promotions have been honored as some of the best of the year. FireKeepers has been honored with four Romero Awards which recognizes excellence in casino marketing throughout the gaming world, awards marketing promotions in several categories each year. FireKeepers Casino Hotel received the Gold Award for booth our Social Media and VIP promotions in 2016. The awards are presented each year at the Casino Marketing and Technology Conference in Las Vegas.
FireKeepers Casino Hotel, after only two years of operation, was named a Four Diamond Hotel by AAA, one of the hospitality industry’s premier honors. The 243 room hotel, featuring 26 suites, earns an achievement that ranks FireKeepers as a premier establishment esteemed by AAA’s professional inspectors. The Four Diamond recognition is given to just five percent of the more than 28,000 approved by AAA properties rated each year.
FireKeepers recently won 13 awards from Strictly Slots Magazine’s Best of Gaming awards in their January edition. Under the category Best Of for Native Midwest Casinos, the awards recognize casino guest preferences from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. First place awards included, “Best Overall Casino”, “Best Progressive Slots”, “Best Quarter Slots”, “Best Dollar Slots”, “Best Comps”, and “Best Players Club Lounge”. We also received second and third place awards for, “ Best Video Poker”, “Best Reel Slots”, “Best Video Slots”, “Best Penny Slots”, “Best Slot Club”, “Best $5+ Slots”, “ and Best High-end Slot Area”.
In 2016, FireKeepers won awards at the Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference organized by Raving Consulting. The Tribal Spirit of Giving Awards recognize organizations that give back to their communities, employees and customers. FireKeepers was nominated in both the community and employee category for our relationship with S.A.F.E. Place Women’s Shelter and our Team Member Rallys. In the community category we were awarded an Honorable Mention and in the employee category we were awarded the first place prize! The 2017 awards will be announced Wednesday, February 1.
Casino Player Magazine showed highlighted FireKeepers as an employer in 2016 by honoring us as one of the “Best Casino’s to Work For”. FireKeepers Food and Beverage was also recognized by Casino Player Magazine. Several accolades were awarded including, “Best Overall Dinning”, “Best Seafood”, “Best Steak House”, “Best Happy Hour”, “Best Buffet”, and “Best Deli”.
We take pride in making you feel like a winner. Thanks for making us a winner, too.
We also have a group of well honored leaders!
Members of our governing body, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribal Council, and our own executive leaders have been honored in many ways.
In 2013, NHBP Tribal Council Chairman Jamie Stuck was honored by Global Gaming Business Magazine and selected as one of the Global Gaming Expo (G2E), Innovation Group, Global Gaming Business Magazine and the America Gaming Association’s Emerging Leaders Program “40 Under 40”. This program identifies young workers and executives in the gaming industry that have made a mark during their early careers and rewards them with scholarships and recognition for their accomplishments. Stuck has also won the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development “Native American 40 under 40” award in 2010.
Also in 2013, NHBP Tribal Council Vice Chair Dorie Rios was honored by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) as one of the 2013 Native Americans 40 under 40. The NCAIED is the leading organization in Native American enterprise development. They have actively engaged in helping Tribal Nations and Native owned businesses realize their entrepreneurial goals for over 40 years.
The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) Tribal Council Sergeant-at-Arms, Homer A. Mandoka, currently sits as the president of the Michigan Indian Gaming Tribes. Mandoka was also honored as Tribal Chairman of the Year in 2013 by the Native American Finance Officers Association or NAFOA. NAFOA is a national non-profit organization that focuses on building the financial strength of tribal governments and their enterprises.
In 2015, NHBP Tribal Council Secretary Christine Lanning was appointed to a three year term on the Michigan Community Service Commission by Governor Rick Snyder. Established in 1991, the 26-member Community Service Commission board fosters a culture of service by providing vision and resources to strengthen communities through volunteerism.
Also in 2015, NHBP Tribal Council Treasurer Tony Day was appointed to a four year term to Governor Rick Snyder’s Talent Investment Board. The Governor’s Talent Investment Board will be charged with advising and assisting the governor regarding compliance with the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014.
In 2015 Chef Michael McFarlen, Vice President of Food and Beverage at FireKeepers Casino Hotel, was recognized as one of the top five finalists for Volunteer of the Year by the Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC).In 2016, Chef McFarlen received the award. The MCSC has been the state’s leading agency in volunteerism since its inception in 1991. The MCSC is made up of 26 commissioners, including Governor Rick Snyder. Chef McFarlen also received the Food Bank Council of Michigan’s Beacon of Light Award. He was nominated by the Food Bank of South Central Michigan, an organization he works closely with, located in Battle Creek.
In 2012, Chief Executive Officer of FireKeepers Casino Hotel Brian Decorah won a Romero Award for excellence in casino marketing. In 2013, Decorah was honored with another prestige award, this time from Global Gaming Business and the Innovation Group. He received the Global Gaming Business award for 40 under 40 emerging leaders in the gaming industry.
Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi
“Keepers of the Fire”
Tribe looks to become self-sufficient
The mission of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi is to provide leadership for Tribal Members and serve as a model to other Native Americans in areas of self-government, self-reliance, and self-empowerment. The Tribe’s goal is to provide its Members the best in health care, educational opportunities, housing, a healthy environment and economic opportunities as a sovereign Native American nation. The proceeds from FireKeepers Casino Hotel help cover those costs for the Tribe and its Members.
There are nearly 1,100 Tribal Members; many live in southwest Michigan in the Tribe’s seven-county service area that covers Allegan, Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Kent and Ottawa counties. The Tribe’s administrative office is located at the Pine Creek Indian Reservation in Athens Township, and the Tribe also maintains a satellite office in Grand Rapids to better serve Members.
Current Tribal Council
Chairperson: Jamie Stuck
Vice Chairperson: Dorie Rios
Secretary: Christine Lanning
Treasurer: Tony Day
Sergeant-At-Arms: Homer A. Mandoka
The Potawatomi name is a derivation of Bodwéwadmi, meaning a people of the fire or a people who make or maintain fire, both of which refer to the role of the Potawatomi as the keeper of the council fire in an earlier alliance with other Tribes in the area.
The Potawatomi Nation encompassed lands along the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan, across to Detroit and from the Huron and Grand Rivers southward into northern Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. A number of treaties restricted the territory of the Potawatomi Nation to the southwestern region of Michigan. In the Treaty of Chicago 1821, Potawatomi Tribal leaders were forced to sign the Treaty that essentially took all but a small portion of lands in southern Michigan, Indiana, and northern Illinois away from them.
Tribal Members were later forced to cede the remainder of their “reserved lands,” contained within the “Notawasepe Reserve,” and were relocated to lands west of the Mississippi River. There was great resistance by Tribal Members to leaving their Michigan villages and hunting territories.
Pine Creek Reservation
Under the leadership of Chief John Moguago, a small number of Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Members either avoided forced relocation or, soon after relocation, returned to their native Michigan. Tribal Members settled in various locations in Allegan and Bradley, Michigan but the Tribe concentrated near Athens, Michigan. Their reservation was established by Chief Moguago on a 120-acre parcel of land along the Pine Creek near Athens, Michigan, purchased in 1845 with treaty annuity money. The reservation has since been declared a historic site by the state and federal governments. The Pine Creek Reservation still serves as the Tribe’s primary land base, providing housing, community events and medical services for Membership.
Land into Trust
The Tribe endured a ten-year journey to develop a casino by defeating numerous legal challenges from various groups and obtaining federal approvals. The Tribe submitted an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) encompassing some 600 pages of text and diagrams analyzing impacts from socio-economic to biological to physical factors with input from local public officials, which is a requirement of federal law. The EIS was accepted by the U.S. Department of Interior and satisfied challengers.
In December 2006, the federal government took official action to acquire the property in Emmett Township into trust for purposes of constructing and operating a casino, and declared it as the Tribe’s initial reservation.
Under Tribal Councils leadership, the Tribe has accomplished successful non-gaming initiatives. These include Elder Housing, Community Center, Health Center, Tribal Court, Tribal Police, and a small convince store. The Tribe has also started its own development board called the Waséyabek Development Company, LLC. This board’s goal is to seek investment opportunities for the Tribe in the non-gaming sector.
NHBP, Other Michigan Tribes Receive Award from Michigan Historic Preservation Network
The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) is pleased to announce that several Tribes in Michigan, including the NHBP, recently were awarded the Michigan Historic Preservation Network’s 2016 Government Institution Award.
The Michigan Historic Preservation Network presented the award to representatives of several Tribes during a reception on Friday, May 13, 2016, held at the Garden Theater in Detroit, for their part in the M-23/US-31 Holland to Grand Haven Archaeological Data Recoveries.
Among the recipients who traveled to receive this Government Institution Award was NHBP Cultural Historic Preservation Office Manager Beth Moody, who worked in collaboration with NHBP Environmental Director John Rodwan.
The Tribal co-awardees include the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. The same Archaeological Data Recoveries award also included the Michigan Department of Transportation, Environmental Section, Michigan State Historic Preservation Office and the Commonwealth Heritage Group for their work on the project.
The award is one of several Government Institution Awards given during the ceremony. Other awards went to the City of Monroe for its River Raisin Heritage Corridor project and to the St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency.
Several Lifetime Achievement Awards also were given to distinguished Michigan historic preservationists.
For more information about the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi visit theirwebsite.