Plant a Seed, Watch it Grow

By Robert Stephen Bostwick

At times, some of us look at this place and shake our heads a bit in disbelief. Some of us were around when this was a wheat patch, and not much of one at that with only clay to grow in, slick and sticky in the spring, break-it-with-a-pick-axe hard by August.

So the Coeur d’Alene Tribe planted another seed, a different seed. Gaming began with a 30,000 sq. ft. bingo operation, opening in March 1993. That opening day marked the addition of 93 employees, the largest single job growth in modern tribal history.

Most of those 93 employees, a few of whom are still with us, were beginning their first ever fulltime job, opening their first ever bank account, buying their first car, experiencing their first true hope of a better future. Many, to be sure, wept amid thoughts of their ancestors.

A $3.1 million loan from the Bureau of Indian Affairs got it started. That was a 10-year note, paid back in less than two, establishing certified success, superb credit and the roll toward the first of eight major expansions.

Most people thought the tribe would simply stick with bingo. Idaho went bug-eyed as Class II and lottery-based games were brought in, all in compliance with the state/tribe gaming compact. More success meant more investment and risk—a hotel, restaurants, entertainment and, of course, more gaming space.

Those first 50 hotel rooms weren’t enough, so along came 150 more in 2003, but a destination resort required more than just gaming and a hotel, so along came Circling Raven Golf Club, instantly acclaimed as one of the best in Indian Country and, for that matter, the WHOLE damn country.

The Spa Tower side, including the vast Skycatcher promenade, represents the most recent and arguably most stunning expansion, coming with fine dining in the Chinook Pasta and Steakhouse, a 15,000 sq. ft. spa and 98 luxury rooms and suites.

Unemployment among tribal members in 1993 stood at 70 percent. Unemployment now no longer exists, and the economic growth on the reservation has left the tribe with far more jobs than it has tribal members to fill them. Thousands more jobs are created across North Idaho and Eastern Washington via the economic impacts of gaming and the expansion of other tribal operations and enterprises.

“Many business leaders in the region were supportive,” said Chief Executive Officer Dave Matheson. “But they strongly advised against building here. We, on the other hand, had confidence in each other, and belief in our mission. We also recognized that we are surrounded by breathtaking beauty, and that people would come here if we could provide great memories and fine hospitality. Clearly, we have.”

From the time the doors opened for that first weekend in 1993, no one has looked back, except maybe to think about those salad days, shake our heads a bit, and marvel at this Coeur d’Alene Miracle.