|By Linda Miller, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma
CityMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
September 05, 2010 - --QUAPAW -- It rises out of nowhere, this clay-colored tower of a building in the northeastern corner of the state, where Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri rub elbows.
Nothing else of any size is near, so even from the Will Rogers Turnpike, Downstream Casino Resort makes an impression. It's just the beginning.
From the European-style traffic circle at the edge of the property to the landscaped drive leading to the resort, Downstream was never intended to be just another hotel and casino. Quapaw tribal members decided it would be big, it would be stylish, and along with all the excitement of the Las Vegas Strip, it would give visitors a peek at the history and culture of the tribe.
The Quapaw Tribe already owned a small casino, similar to the dozen others in the area. Downstream would shine, in appearance, service and philosophy.
"We wanted to compete with the Cherokees and Chickasaws and all those other guys," said tribal Chairman John Berrey. He and others traveled the United States, checking out resorts and bringing back ideas for a beautiful, high-class resort.
Two years ago -- 10 months and 26 days after ground was broken -- the resort opened with 2,000 gambling machines, 32 table games, a poker room and rooms for high-limit table games and slots in the casino. The centerpiece of the casino is Devils Promenade, an elevated bar and lounge. Its pulsing funnel of light can be seen from every corner of the casino.
What's missing but not missed is an overdose of Vegas neon and glitz.
The resort is more luxurious and earthy, with granite, wood and natural rock. A two-sided rock fireplace glows year-round in the lobby, where visitors are greeted by a large metal vessel with a distinct swirl pattern. The swirl was an important design in Quapaw pottery, and it is included in design and decor throughout the resort.
Water is another important element for the Quapaws, whose tribal name means downstream people. Waves can be seen rolling across wallpaper and other accents. Red oak, another significant material for the tribe, figures prominently in the hotel and casino.
Throughout the hotel, the conference center and the rooms are photos of the Quapaw people. Borrowed from the tribal museum and enlarged, the photographs give visitors a look at Quapaw history.
The high-tech casino is just steps from the lobby, but the thrills don't intrude on the lobby's ambience. Tournament poker players are alerted with electronic paging systems. Music is centralized in the bar areas. An $18 million ventilation system sucks out air in the casino six times an hour. That means there's new air every 10 minutes. The casino is virtually smoke-free.
Dining options include Red Oak Steakhouse, Spring River Buffet, Buffalo Grille, Legends Sports Bar and Wa-Na-Bee-Dea Snack Bar.
The hotel has 222 upscale rooms; 15 luxury one- and two-bedroom suites; penthouse-level VIP lounge; pool area with outdoor bar, fire pit, cabanas and a hot tub; an indoor-outdoor events center that will accommodate 1,200; fitness center; and a conference center. A golf course is nearby.
Like any Las Vegas resort, entertainment is expected. At Downstream, Legends Sports Bar has live music on weekends, and The Venue, an outdoor concert facility for up to 6,000 people, features big-name talent, including Tony Bennett and Blake Shelton. Heart is scheduled to perform tonight.
Concerts bring in people who have never been to the resort. "It's something we like to do. We like to show off our facility," Berrey said.
He also likes to talk about employees and tribal members, their commitment and what the resort gives back and offers the surrounding communities.
A day care center for employees' children is being built on the property. Employees are given one free meal a day. The resort collects leftover soaps, shampoos and conditioners that are rebottled by Joplin Workshops, a community partner that gives employment to adults with disabilities. Quapaw tribal crews were first-responders to a crash site when a tractor-trailer plowed into several cars on the Will Rogers Turnpike.
The 1,100 to 1,200 employees are taken care of, and they take care of the guests, who often comment on how friendly everyone is, Berrey said.
The resort's high level of service isn't just coincidence.
"We try and exceed expectations," said Tim Brown, senior vice president of resort operations. "It's all about listening. If you can listen, you can give customers what they want."
The resort also knows that service builds loyalty.
"When a new guest arrives here and gets that first touch of service, it's like 'wow,'" said Steven Drewes, general manager. "That's one of the things that drives us. What can we do to get better? We're staying one step ahead of the competition."
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Copyright (c) 2010, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City
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