Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Nation Sweet on Tourism: New Home for Chocolate Factory among Chickasaw Projects in Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Nation Sweet on Tourism: New Home for Chocolate Factory among Chickasaw Projects in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

The Chickasaw Nation has about $40 million in new tourism construction rising in Murray County, and none of it involves gambling.

Last month Tulsa-based Manhattan Construction started two tribal projects at the crossing of Interstate 35 and State Highway 7 outside Davis, a 34,600-square-foot new home for the Chickasaws' Bedre Chocolate subsidiary and a 5,500-square-foot Chickasaw Welcome Center.

This $7 million-plus effort coincides with ongoing construction of the four-story, 81-room Artesian Hotel in Sulphur. Started in October 2010, this $30 million, 140,000-square-foot-plus luxury hotel will accept its first guests next year, as will the two Manhattan projects.

Chickasaw officials expect these to build on the tourism momentum created when the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center opened last year in Sulphur. Bill Lance, administrator of the Chickasaw Nation's Division of Commerce, said more than 75,000 people visited that 96,000-square-foot center since its July 2010 debut.

He hopes these new projects spur a 5- to 10-percent boost in tourist stops from the 35,000 people who daily drive down I-35, solidifying a growing audience for a future retail center, pocket park and casino.

"The Artesian Hotel will be a natural complement to the cultural center, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Turner Falls and other attractions in the area," Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby said in an email.

Reviving a statehood wonder that burned to the ground in 1962, the Artesian will boast 11,000 square feet of retail space, indoor and outdoor pools, an indoor bathhouse and spa, a full-service restaurant with patio dining options and a banquet room seating up to 252.

"This hotel will provide lodging and entertainment options which could help transform this area into a prime destination for visitors from across the U.S. and beyond," said Anoatubby.

With its Kid Zone chocolate tasting center and other tourist delights, the Bedre plant promises to become an immediate tourism anchor of its own in a county that already attracts some 3 million visitors on an annual basis. …

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