The Whitecap Dakota First Nation (WDFN) has opened the Dakota Dunes Resort after two years of construction.
Plans for the $38-million building first started 11 years ago, two years after the Dakota Dunes Casino was built.
Chief Darcy Bear believes the project would spur economic activity in the community.
“This hotel is a key piece to our master plan. Once fully operational, because sadly right now we’re open with COVID-19 guidelines, once fully operational (there are) 150 jobs — and that’s to the region,” he added.
The hotel’s operator said given the climate and safety measures because of COVID-19, it could see bookings reach up to 60 per cent capacity by August.
Currently Atlific Hotels has hired about a third of the staff.
“If we were opening in a non-COVID environment, we would’ve hired the full complement. We have to be fiscally prudent right now and we will staff up as revenues allow,” senior vice president Philippe Gadbois said.
The resort has 155 rooms, a rooftop pool, 10,000 square feet of meeting space and a farm-to-table restaurant.
First Nations leaders say the model of working with multiple partners to complete an economic development project is one other Indigenous communities can follow.
“This hotel is only going to enhance and bring more capacity. With capacity you bring revenue. With people walking through the doors, you bring more employment,” Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron added.
The project received $8.6 million in funding from Indigenous Services Canada.
WDFN added it has taken steps to ease the financial burden so the resort will at least break even in the short-term given the pandemic economy.
Some of those include a property tax exemption from the council and working with Bank of Montreal so the business doesn’t pay interest on it’s principal loan for six months.
Construction is still taking place on the property with an outdoor amphitheatre in the works.
Bear said WDFN is also working to attach a spa to the resort, but that is still in the planning phase.
Whitecap is about 35 kilometres south of Saskatoon.