AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. - Members of the Spokane Tribe broke ground on phase one of the STEP development on the West Plains.
STEP, which stands for the Spokane Tribe Economic Project, will develop tribal lands near Airway Heights and is expected to bring 5,000 jobs to the area.
The first phase of the project includes a casino, and eventually the tribe plans to add a resort/hotel as well as a cultural and wellness center.
It's all happening just east of Spoko Fuel off Highway 2, technically in Medical Lake.
Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony came with a fancy shovel and a lot of big names. but, this isn't just any project for the Spokane Tribe, and this isn't just any piece of land.
"This is a place of the Spokane tribal people," said Carol Evans, Spokane Tribe spokesperson. "Our ancestors of the past, this land here is where they fought one of our wars."
The crowd, which included tribal members, construction workers, and local politicians, was waiting ten years for the groundbreaking.
"Our people have a lot of needs and we have not been able to provide for them," said Evans.
The Spokane Tribe had to jump through many hoops to make this project happen.
"We had to actually address any questions that came up from the federal partners, the state partners and any of the people that were participating in that process," said Evans.
There was an environmental impact survey that took nine years to complete. The tribe also worked closely with the U.S. Air Force to ensure the STEP plans don't interfere with operations at Fairchild.
Finally, the approval from the project came earlier this year from Governor Inslee.
"This is wonderful for the Spokane Tribe," said politician Joe Pakootas. "You know they have been fighting for this for many years."
It was a decade of paperwork and red tape that fellow Native Americans, like Pakootas, say was well worth it.
"People come out to celebrate with them today, but what we are actually doing is celebrating their future," said Pakootas.
Without any foreseeable hurdles to overcome, the Spokane Tribe hopes to open the casino, phase one at least, by August 2017.
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