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The Cocopah Tribe Begin Construction on 101 room Resort
 and Convention Center in Yuma, Arizona

By Joyce Lobeck, The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Nov. 14, 2006 - Monday was a glorious day for the Cocopah Tribe. After years of dreaming and a year of putting plans together, the tribe held a ceremonial groundbreaking for a resort and conference center next to its casino.

Surveying is expected to start next week and groundwork could begin in a couple of weeks, said Kevin Burke, president of Burke & Associates, the general contractor. He said he expects the resort to open in about 12 months.

The 69,586-square foot hotel will be located to the northeast of the casino, parallel to Avenue B, and visible from State Highway 95, explained Thomas Wucherer, a principal with the architecture firm YWS Architects.

The hotel will have 101 rooms, among them seven suites, Wucherer said. Two suites on the top floor will be the sunrise suite facing east and the sunset suite facing west. Other features will be a two-story lobby with a living room-like atmosphere, pool and spa, small fitness center and a separate entrance from the casino. It will have three meeting rooms with movable walls to create one large room with more than 3,000 square feet.

The resort will connect to the casino through the food court, with a cultural display area to provide a transition from the bustle of the casino to the "softer" resort atmosphere, he said. Tribal officials declined to announce the project's cost.

He described the design of the three-story building as "modern Southwest to compliment the existing design, but stress the resort component." Soft colors and landscaping will further add to the atmosphere of a resort, he said. "I've passed this road so many times," Sherry Cordova, tribal chairwoman, told about a hundred people who had gathered for the groundbreaking. She said she is looking forward at last to having the resort become a reality, and expressed gratitude for the many people throughout the years who conceived of the vision and worked to make it happen. But the moment was tinged with sadness, too, she said. An elder who had looked forward to being able to stay at the hotel recently died, Cordova said. "She won't be able to enjoy it, but I'm sure she's looking down on us."

As part of the ceremony, the Southwest Kwapa Bird Singers and Dancers performed in ceremonial dress. Then tribal officials and elders grabbed gilded shovels and threw some dirt. Cordova said the resort will benefit not just the tribe, but the entire area. "It will be something to be shared and enjoyed by everyone."

Joyce Lobeck can be reached at jlobeck@yumsun.com or 39-6853.

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.

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