Monday, October 19, 2009


Update: Oneida, Menominee use $38 million in stimulus funds to upgrade Thornberry Creek, finance convention center, hotel expansion

Tribes get about $38 million combined
By Malavika Jagannathan • • September 22, 2009

Northeastern Wisconsin tribes will receive almost $38 million in economic development bonds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act intended to provide low-cost financing for infrastructure projects.

The Oneida Tribe of Indians will use the tax-exempt bonds to refinance some construction projects they have already undertaken and fund several upgrade projects at the Thornberry Creek at Oneida golf course.

The Menominee Nation, which received more than $22.5 million in bonds, will use the funds to pay for a new convention center and hotel expansion, according to assistant tribal attorney John Wilhelmi. The tribe may find other ways to finance this project and may not use the allocation in the end, but it gives them an additional option in a poor borrowing climate, Wilhelmi said.

"It's been a tough couple of years to borrow money and this would help," Wilhelmi said. He added that the legislation also removes previous restrictions on tribes to use tax-exempt bonds, expanding the types of projects that tribes can borrow for.
About 58 tribes will receive about $1 billion in stimulus bond authority, giving them access to low-interest bonds for infrastructure projects intended to speed up economic growth on reservations. Another $1 billion will be awarded in the next round of bonds given out by the Treasury Department next year.

Lance Broberg, the president of the Oneida Airport Hotel Corp. that runs the tribal hospitality entities, said the tribe applied for bonds to refinance the purchase of the Wingate Hotel, the purchase of Thornberry Creek at Oneida and a recent renovation project at the Oneida Casino that included their buffet area.

It received $15 million, which will cover about 80 percent of the purchase price of the Wingate Hotel and Thornberry Creek, and 40 percent of the $4.1 million project at the Oneida Casino that expanded the buffet and high stakes area.

"We received partial funding for all three projects," Broberg said. "It allows us to get these dollars at low interest rates and reduce our debt."

About $1 million of the money will be used to fund ongoing and future improvements at Thornberry Creek, the golf course the tribe purchased last December out of bankruptcy court and reopened earlier this year. That includes improvements to the banquet facility, the course and renovation of its bunkers.

"It's designed to stimulate the hospitality businesses that might be struggling," Broberg said of the bonds. "Anything we can do is going to be good for this business."

Tribes across the nation plan to use the money for various projects such as a corrections facility in South Dakota, low-income housing in Washington and a marina in California.

EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: Good for the Oneidas, Menominee and other tribes that took advantage of the stimulus funds.

We wish all the tribes that received stimulus funds, prosperity and good luck on their endeavors. Did the Mohegans apply for any of these funds? What do you think?

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