PHILADELPHIA — Last week, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians unveiled its latest economic development project with the official groundbreaking of its
impressive $750-million Pearl River Resort, which will feature the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino.
Pioneering astronaut Buzz Aldrin helped launch the groundbreaking festivities of the tribe’s second Las Vegas-style casino, which features cascading curtains of water at
ground level and a huge, moon-like “Galaxy” restaurant and observation deck that appears to orbit more than 300 feet above ground. Area hotels had been booked weeks
in advance for the festivities, which attracted several hundred business leaders from around the nation for the daylong festivities.
With an aggressive development schedule, completion of the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino is expected by mid-2002.
“The success of our existing Silver Star Resort & Casino inspired us to create a complete resort destination which will appeal to our existing guests who hail from
surrounding states, but extend our reach across the country,” said Chief Phillip Martin. “We know that to compete on a national scale we need a broad range of activities,
which is why we’re embarking on this aggressive project.”
With the new venture, all of the Choctaw’s existing gaming and entertainment operations will fall under the overall umbrella of the new Pearl River Resort at Philadelphia,
including Silver Star Resort & Casino; Dancing Rabbit Golf Club, one of America’s Top 100 Courses, according to Golf Magazine; Phillip M’s, a five-star restaurant; a
luxury spa; 30,000 square feet of meeting and convention space; several other restaurants, bars and lounges that regularly host A-list headline entertainers.
“Congratulations are in order for the number of individuals responsible for this project,” said Mississippi Development Authority executive director J.C. Burns. “This
announcement is truly a credit to the vision of the leadership that comprises the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The decision to build the Pearl River Resort is
further recognition that we have a quality workforce and a commitment to business growth that it takes to be competitive.”
The home base of the Choctaws’ gaming operations will change from Philadelphia to Choctaw, a newly-formed municipality, pending final approval.
“For now, to simplify matters, we’re still referring to Pearl River Resort in Philadelphia,” said Creda Stewart, spokesperson for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
Improvements to the existing Silver Star Resort & Casino include the addition of a 2,400-square-foot entrance to the casino; a 41,000-square-foot shopping mall;
Star-Tacular, an open air laser, pyrotechnic and water screen attraction; a 1,200-stadium seat auditorium, and the renovation of the entrance and reconfiguration of
existing parking lots.
When complete, the resort is expected to create 2,000 additional full-time jobs with an annual payroll in excess of $30 million.
“Mississippians look forward to the job opportunities and the positive economic impact that will be created the Pearl River Resort,” Burns said.
The Pearl River Resort will feature:
• The 840,0000-square-foot Golden Moon Hotel & Casino, designed by Arquitectonica of Miami, Fla., that will include 572 luxury rooms and 90,000 square feet of gaming
space and seven restaurants;
• The Choctaw Cultural Center, where authenticated tribal artifacts will be on permanent display;
• Cars to the Stars, a permanent exhibition of more than 30 famous automobiles from movies and television shows, such as the 1921 Oldsmobile Jalopy from “The Beverly
Hillbillies,” the 1963 Volkswagen Beetle from “Herbie, the Love Bug,” a 1981 DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” the Flintstone’s Flintmobile, and the 1974 Chevrolet
Impala from “Batman;”
• A 280-acre recreational lake for fishing, boating, camping, swimming, hiking and other recreational activities;
• An outlet mall;
• A low-rise hotel;
• A 10,000-seat outdoor amphitheater and sports complex for regional events;
• A water park, featuring water slides for all ages, tube shoots, water playgrounds and refreshment center;
• A town center, with retail, banking, dining, housing and several entertainment options.
“The Choctaw Cultural Center is an integral part of the Pearl River Resort,” Stewart said. “A nationwide search is underway for items that help trace the history of the
Choctaw Indians to its tribal lands in east-central Mississippi.”
Even the name “Mississippi” in Choctaw means “father of waters.”
“By preserving the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians artifacts, we are helping to sustain Mississippi’s rich cultural landscape,” said Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. “Many of
our streets, lakes, cities and counties have borrowed their names from the Choctaw language.”
Hundreds of artifacts are expected to surface anywhere between New York and Los Angeles, said Martin.
“Beginning in the 1800s the Choctaws were dispersed across the country, taking personal items with them that their descendants might still own,” he said.
The addition of the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino to the Pearl River Resort doubles the tribe’s gaming capacity. Silver Star Resort & Casino, which opened in 1994, has
become one of the largest and most successful gaming enterprises on an Indian reservation, providing jobs to nearly 2,400 area residents.
Last October, Martin ended the tribe’s management contract with Boyd Gaming Corporation of Las Vegas, 17 months earlier than originally scheduled, when the tribe
paid $72 million for an early buyout.
In February, Doug Pattison, former senior vice president and general manager of Sheraton Casino and Hotel in Tunica County, took over as CEO and general manager of
Silver Star. At the time, Chief Phillip Martin hinted about plans to provide additional services to casino customers.
“At the beginning, when we talked about building a casino on the reservation, nobody believed it would be as successful as it is today,” said Martin. “People in a 300-mile
area are interested in gaming and entertainment, going to places that are different from the norm. When we have overflow crowds, we lose money because there’s not
enough room or the facilities are crowded. That’s not good. Even though the operation is casino-driven, we want to provide more than just gaming. We want to give
customers more choices in restaurants and hotels, and incentives to stay two or three days.”
It is unclear whether Pattison will manage both casinos, or if another manager will be added, Stewart said.
“The newly formed board has not yet made that decision,” she said. “It’s still early.”
Tourism in Mississippi has increased steadily since the mid-1990s, thanks to the expansion of gaming opportunities and the growing popularity of visits to historical
monuments and destinations. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, 27% of all U.S. adults — and 32% of those 55 years or older — have visited a
historic site or museum.
“This will complement the variety of activities we offer our many visitors as they experience our tremendous history, heritage and culture,” Burns said. “The tourism
industry is a vital part
of our continued economic success
The Choctaw Reservation consists of more than 25,000 acres in portions of Attala, Jackson, Jones, Kemper, Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Scott and Winston counties. The
tribe, one of the 10 largest employers in the state, has more than 6,600 employees on its