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New Sky Ute Casino opening Tuesday
11/14/2008 By: Melanie B Mazur
Prepare for "wow."
Business leaders oohed and aahed when they received a sneak preview of the new Sky Ute Casino Resort and Conference Center in September.
Many said they couldn't believe they were in Ignacio, the hub of Southwest Colorado's gas-production fields, and the home of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
But casino officials believe the new resort and conference center is a natural fit with all the Southwest has to offer, including Ignacio's proximity to world-class skiing, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and ancient wonders such as Mesa Verde National Park.
"The new Sky Ute Casino Resort and Conference Center will be the premier property of the Four Corners, both as a casino and a hotel," said Matt Olin, the property's general manager and chief operating officer.
Nestled in the splendor of the San Juan Mountains, the casino has 540 slot machines, 12 table games, a 180-seat bingo hall, 24-lane AMF bowling center, an 18-hole mini golf course, and 24-site RV park.
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe will unveil the new casino at a media event on Friday, Nov. 14. A grand opening on the weekend of Nov. 28-30 will feature entertainment, fireworks, gaming promotions, giveaways, and numerous family-friendly activities.
"Our opening will rival what they offer in Las Vegas," said Ben Fernandez, director of marketing for the casino and resort.
Olin is particularly pleased with the rooms the hotel has to offer both business and pleasure travelers. Gleaming cherry wood and imported granite surfaces fill the rooms and baths. All rooms feature a wet bar, refrigerator, microwave, LCD television, and Pendleton wool blankets. The wool blankets are a staple of Indian trading culture and will be sold in the hotel's shops.
The suites - named after prominent Ute tribal members - feature 52-inch LCD televisions and a smaller TV in the bathroom and Sleep Number beds. Two adjoining suites with an extra bedroom can combine to create 1,600 square feet of space and five televisions. One floor offers concierge service for its guest.
Wi-fi, high-speed internet and a state-of-the-art voice-over Internet protocol telephone system will allow visitors to stay as wired and plugged in as they want to be...or not! There will be smoking and non-smoking rooms.
There are five restaurant options for hotel and casino patrons:
• The Aspen Room will serve as both a buffet and menu restaurant, featuring a variety of Native American and international cuisines rotating during the week.
• The Council Table fine dining area seats 25 to 30 people by reservation only and features cuisine prepared tableside by classically trained chefs.
• The Rose Coffee Bistro serves espresso, bagels, pastries, salads, sandwiches and fruit, as well as selling loaves of bread to locals.
• The Shining Mountain Café is a 24-hour taqueria featuring Native American food, pizza, burgers and sandwiches.
• The Rolling Thunder Café offers appetizers, lettuce wraps, buffalo wings, and other casual and family fare. It also will provide food service for both the 49 Sports Lounge and the bowling center.
The 18,000-square-foot ballroom and event center will host conferences, entertainment, and live boxing, which is an important part of the area's Hispanic and Native culture. The ballroom can seat up to 1,000 people at tables for a dinner and another 200 in the other four conference rooms. Up to 1500 people can be accommodated for an entertainment or sporting event.
Family is at the heart of Ute culture, so making the resort family-friendly was part of the design.
"We're a destination resort, but we're also a family destination resort," Olin said. "People come here to socialize, eat, bowl, and have fun. We want to be a place where families can gather."
The Aspen Room features a kids’ buffet where children can serve themselves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Any part of the resort can be reached through an outside entrance, so families won't need to bring children through the gaming area. A huge photo of Ute warriors on horseback gazes on swimmers as they float through the lazy river and play in the pool. And the bowling center will have youth leagues and late-night bowling, popular with teenagers and young adults.
"We want to provide the retail, food, family events, and entertainment," Olin said. "The only reason people need to leave is to go take in the sights and activities that we're famous for in this area."
Smoking will be allowed only in the main casino floor and sports bar, and smoke is mitigated through a state-of-the-art system that practically allows a non-smoker to sit next to a smoking patron and not notice the smoke. For those who want a smoke-free environment, there is also a non-smoking slot area.
Southern Ute culture
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is proud of its cultural, artistic and military heritage. Tribal member employees and elders helped select the museum-quality Native artwork that will be featured throughout the complex, including bronze sculptures of the tribal bison, called Rolling Thunder, a bear and a Ute flute player, by noted Ute sculptor Oreland Joe.
Tim Washburn has created another bronze statue of a Ute family that will greet visitors as they enter the main entryway.
Joe Cajero has sculpted two horses in bronze galloping at the front road entrance. Numerous paintings and other works will grace the interior, including a rare 300-year-old buckskin embellished with beadwork, for which Utes are famous. A map of the artwork in the facility will be available to visitors so they can enjoy every piece.
Tribal employees also helped select the color schemes featured in the resort, from the vibrant hues of the casino to the softer colors of the rooms and employee offices.
"We wanted to build the Ute culture into the facility, but not overstate it, and keep it subtle," Olin said. A gorgeous stained-glass rose lighting fixture, for example, hangs above the Rose Coffee Bistro. In Ute culture, the rose is an important symbol of both female and male beauty.
A spa and salon will offer two massage rooms, saunas, manicures, pedicures, and Sky Ute signature spa and beauty products.
The sundry and gift shop will be open 24 hours a day, and a separate logo and gift shop will accent Ute and Southwestern culture.
RV Park and miniature golf
The 24-site RV park features WiFi Internet access, showers, laundry facilities, access to the resort's lazy river and pool and fitness center, and spectacular views of the nearby HD and La Plata mountains. The nearby 18-hole miniature golf course will provide fun for guests of all ages during the summer months.
The new Sky Ute Casino Resort and Conference Center will still be a locals' gathering place for family and friends, but now provides the amenities and activities that business and pleasure travelers want for a restful stay. Shuttle service will be available to the nearby Durango - La Plata County Airport, as well as Durango, Pagosa Springs and Farmington.
To arrange for an interview or a tour of the new resort, please call Matt Olin at (970) 563-3001.