By Michelle Railey
1.) Turtle Creek Hotel and Casino is one of three properties owned by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The other two sister properties are the Leelanau Sands Casino and the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.
2.) The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians had to wait until May of 1980 to be formally recognized as a tribe by the federal government. They call themselves the Three Fires Confederacy (Anishinaabeg). The confederacy is comprised of members from the Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi peoples. The tribe has approximately 3,985 enrolled members.
3.) Turtle Creek Hotel and Casino was opened in 2008 at a cost of $116 million dollars. The combined hotel and casino has 360,000 square feet and was designed by the Minneapolis-based architectural firm Walsh Bishop Associates, which has since been purchased by Chuck Knight. The assets of the former Walsh Bishop Associates have been consolidated under Knight into an architectural firm called Design.
4.) Although the building is not LEED-certified (casinos have a difficult time achieving LEED certification), the casino followed LEED guidelines and considers itself a green facility. The former, smaller Turtle Creek Casino building was mainly recycled; the newer facility features skylights, LED lighting, green roofs and features, roads and parking lots made from recycled materials, and special energy-efficient slot machines.
“It is important for all of us to live the kind of lives that show respect for the gifts that the Creator has entrusted to us, the water, the sky, the land, and the creatures that inhabit them, as well as respect for each other.”—Robert Kewaygoshkum, chairman of the Tribal Council of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
5.) The design of the building was inspired, in part, by the tribe’s creation myth. A Great Turtle rose up from a rising flood and all the creatures and peoples of the earth rode on its back to safety. And North America itself was thought of as Turtle Island. Some information on turtle myths in Native American culture can be found here. More here. And here.
6.) Comfort for the patrons of the casino and hotel figured prominently in the design: ventilation flows up through the floor. Air is purified and recycled through the building, minimizing the typical casino floor’s second-hand smoke issues; the 50-foot high interior ceiling assists in pulling smoke away from visitors and is amazingly effective. The chairs in the gaming areas are expensive swivel models with ergonomic foot rests.
7.) The entry to the complex grounds is lined with Norway Maples in order to re-introduce “old-growth genetics into the ecosystem.” They are joined on the grounds with Black Willows in the wetlands and runoff areas. The Black Willows have a reputation for cleaning toxins from air and water (and if you’re looking for a band name, you could do worse).
8.) Turtle Creek Casino is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It offers several dining options and complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. The casino and hotel together are rated 4 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor and 3 out of 5 stars on Yelp. It is technically located in Williamsburg, Michigan, but is part of the Traverse City area. Beaches in summer and skiing in winter and excellent food all year round.