HOLDENVILLE, Okla. (AP) _ The playground of a former elementary school will be the site of a new Indian casino.
The Muscogee Nation plans to build the small casino at Capitol Heights Elementary School, which closed in the 1980s and was bought by the tribe.
George Tiger, spokesman for the Creek Nation National Council, said the casino will be built next to a tribal community center inside the old school, which also houses a prekindergarten program for the Holdenville School District. The casino is to open next spring.
``Hopefully, it will be more positive than negative,'' Mayor Jack Barrett said Wednesday.
The site is in a neighborhood of older homes and trailers. Holdenville doesn't have zoning laws, but even if it did, Barrett said it wouldn't matter.
``Since they're a sovereign nation, and the land is in trust, they'll do whatever they choose to do,'' Barrett said.
Barrett said the tribe informed him the casino will be about 6,000 square feet and will employ 30 to 40 people. A tall fence will separate the casino from the playground.
``We're trying to develop a relationship with them. They can do lots of things we can't do, and they are an economic force in the state of Oklahoma,'' Barrett said.
He said the tribe donated an $85,000 fire truck to the city during last fall's wildfire outbreak.
One resident upset by the casino proposal is Aline Robins, 83, who lives across the street.
``I don't know of any way we can stop it, but we don't have to go there, that's for sure,'' Robins said.
Holdenville School Board President Clyde Collis said he learned of the casino within the past two weeks. The school board hasn't met since then, but Collis said he's sure the board will discuss whether the prekindergarten program should remain at that location.
Jim Crawford, pastor of Capitol Heights Baptist Church, said the church wrote a letter asking the tribe to reconsider.
``We know it will no doubt bring a lot of bad people in town,'' Crawford said.
He said tribe officials said they intend to put dimmers on the casino's outdoor lighting so it won't stand out at night.
``They said they'll try their best to make sure it blends into the community. What that means, we're not sure,'' Crawford said.