Mechoopda unveil casino designs

STEP RIGHT UP <br>The casino project for the Mechoopda tribe features an entrance reminiscent of some Las Vegas properties, minus the neon.

The casino project for the Mechoopda tribe features an entrance reminiscent of some Las Vegas properties, minus the neon.

Courtesy Of Mechoopda Indian Tribe

The video looked like something straight out of Las Vegas, perhaps because it was. But what it showed was distinctly Chico, as were the people showing it.

Last Thursday (May 11), members of the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria sat down to a community dinner with a cross-section of their city neighbors. There in an Oxford Suites meeting room, after beverages, chicken and chit-chat, they shared some tribal history and gave a glimpse of the future.

Namely: the aforementioned video showing artist renderings of the Mechoopda casino, which the tribe anticipates building next year and opening under the management of Las Vegas-based Station Casinos.

The tribe will develop approximately 100 acres of a 600-acre property at the junction of highways 99 and 149. The one-story casino building will cover approximately 43,000 square feet, which the tribe says is about half the size of the Indian casinos in Oroville (Feather Falls and Gold Country).

The casino—still unnamed—will feature slot machines, table games and restaurants but no hotel. Smoking will be permitted in at least some areas, and the minimum age for entry will be 21. The project’s estimated price tag is $80 million.

While details of the interior décor evoke images of the Bellagio and the grand entrance resembles other Vegas casinos, the design is light on Sin City touches—particularly lights. The tribe wants the building to fit its surroundings, tribal secretary Sandra Knight said during the presentation, so “it’s not neon.”

Last week’s community dinner was one in a series of outreach events the Mechoopda are holding “to get out on a personal level into the community,” Knight said. About 180 of the 425 Mechoopda members live in the Chico area, 300 in Butte County. The tribe plans to use local vendors and work with city and county officials on building standards, even though its land falls under tribal and federal jurisdiction, not local.

The outreach efforts come as a Glenn County tribe battles opposition to its casino plan. Glenn County supervisors last year did not allow the Grindstone Rancheria of Wintun-Wailaki Indians, whose reservation is in the Elk Creek area, to purchase land on Interstate 5; voters will weigh in via an advisory ballot measure June 6.

“We know there is going to be organized opposition,” Mechoopda tribal chairman Steve Santos said at the end of the presentation. “But the tribe is entitled to have land in trust and gaming as economic development. What we’re trying to do is work with local government to benefit as many people as possible.”

The timetable hinges on the federal government’s final approval to hold the tribe’s land in trust. The Mechoopda are in the fifth year of a process Santos said averages five to seven years.

Meanwhile, the tribe is holding community dinners every six to eight weeks. To request an invitation, contact Knight at