CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Wednesday was a day long in the making for the Catawba Nation tribe of South Carolina as leaders broke ground on land in Kings Mountain to build a new casino resort.
Local leaders, attorneys and Catawba Nation Chief William Harris all say the casino is happening - and it’s happening fast. They say the space, on Dixon School Road just off I-85, should become that resort as early as spring or summer of next year.
“I don’t know any word that will actually describe what it means to have a righting of a historical wrong,” Harris said. “If we have an opportunity to right a wrong, step toward it not away from it. And that’s what happened here.”
The new casino will cost nearly $300 million and is expected to house restaurants, table games and 1,300 slots.
Catawba Nation worked years for this day.
The groundbreaking comes after the tribe won federal approval for the land, and faced a lawsuit against the project by The Eastern Band of Cherokees who operate their own casinos in western North Carolina.
“Indigenous people have had a hard road of hope for many many years,” Harris said. “So if we can come together, then there’s a phrase out there: this is ‘strength in unity.' So instead of doing inner fighting, let’s unite and make something better.”
They say the project will create about 4,000 new jobs and provide economic benefits for Cleveland County and for South Carolina, where the Catawba Nation calls home.
”We’re going to be able to put schools on our reservation because we didn’t have economic development to develop that,” Harris said. “So when we talk about jobs, schools... not only does that effect Catawba, but it effects this area.”
Developers say this will start with a temporary casino, with slots and other games opening first. Then, about 18 more months of work for the full resort to be complete.
“This is an economically depleted area of North Carolina. So yes, Catawba is going to benefit from this, the citizens of Catawba are going to benefit from this,” Harris said. “If times get tougher, economy tightens up, it will effect the phases. So just know that the dollar will drive the development.”
Though all of that timeline, they say, depends on what happens with the economy between now and then.