Creek Nation Breaks Ground On Margaritaville Expansion At River Spirit Casino

Tuesday, October 15th 2013, 5:34 pm

Margaritaville is coming to Tulsa. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation broke ground Tuesday on a $335 million expansion of the River Spirit Casino.

The addition will bring the Jimmy Buffet brand of entertainment to Tulsa, scheduled to open in 2015.

The Creek Nation says the expansion will create 800 new permanent jobs here.

The addition will have a second theater, another gambling floor and, for the first time there, hotel space: a 26-story tower with almost 500 rooms.

The River Spirit Casino is already big, but phase two will more than double the size of it. The new Margaritaville Casino is a major addition to the biggest money maker the Creek Nation has ever had.

Chief George Tiger said the tribe will take the new income from the project and put it into tribal services, especially healthcare.

3/19/2013 Related Story: Creek Nation Unveils Plans To Turn South Tulsa Casino Into Margaritaville

"The vision was to help our people and do something with economic development, and I believe we've reached some of those goals," Tiger said.

A new hotel tower dominates the plan, but the whole project is closely tied to water in the river, which isn't there right now.

"I would say, Mr. Mayor, that we bring the palm trees and the sand, and so we are missing one ingredient and that would be the water," said John Cohlan, of Margaritaville Holdings.

The complex will still be called "River Spirit" and the new part will be called Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Restaurant and Casino.

The developers say their man-made beach needs water and the tribe says it's willing to help pay for the low water dam that would keep water there.

"It absolutely helps. You can't do a Margaritaville without being on the water, so we're on the water," said Pat Crofts, CEO of Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos.

Almost every speaker at the groundbreaking talked about the importance of, "water in the river."

The CEO of Margaritaville said, whether it has a true waterfront or not, this complex will be unique to Tulsa.

"So we try and take advantage of the local culture and we'll weave into the experience what it means to have a good time in Tulsa," Cohlan said.

The expansion will generally be on the river side of the existing complex--behind it, if you're on Riverside Drive. That's to maximize the potential connection to the river.

It's going to take two years to build it.