TULSA - Alongside elected officials from the city and county, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief George Tiger broke ground on Margaritaville at River Spirit Casino Tuesday.
The new addition to the south Tulsa gaming site includes a 26-story, 483-room hotel tower with a swimming pool, fitness center, upscale spa, retail stores and gift shop.
With Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville as the new anchor at River Spirit, "Landshark Landing," a Margaritaville-branded pool deck and riverfront entertainment area, will be built. The theme continues with a Margaritaville restaurant, bar and retail outlet.
Construction also includes at 30,000-square foot convention center that can seat up to 3,000.
Other additions include a steakhouse, "5 o'Clock Somewhere Bar" and a national restaurant chain yet to be named.
Parking expansions are also included in the $335 million expansion, which will create space for 1,500 more vehicles.
As River Spirit expands, the local economy is expected to as well.
During the 18- to 24-month construction period, which will create 1,800 construction jobs, the casino expects to pour more than $300 million into the Tulsa economy.
Once Margaritaville is fully up and running, officials estimate a yearly economic impact of $135 million. River Spirit, which currently has 950 full-time employees, will nearly double in permanent positions. The casino estimates the creation of 800 more full-time jobs.
Among the topics receiving much of the attention around Margaritaville's opening is the lack of water in the Arkansas River.
"I would say, Mr. Mayor, that we bring the palm trees and the sand, so we are missing one ingredient, and that would be the water," joked John Cohlan, CEO of Margaritaville.
It was earlier in remarks by elected officials that Mayor Dewey Bartlett addressed the issue.
"I can assure you, with a $335 million investment, there will be water in the river," he said.
District 2 County Commissioner Karen Keith also addressed water levels in the Arkansas, saying that with the investment of the Gathering Place, she believes water in the river could soon be a reality.
"I just absolutely believe this is going to be the trigger that gets those low water dams in and hopefully we'll get behind it, we'll have some public-private partnerships that develop out of these two relationships," Keith said.
Tiger addressed the water levels as one key in the success of River Spirit and Margaritaville and said the tribe has met with various interested parties about raising the water levels. While nothing is imminent, he said, he thought it was a great possibility that water could be in the river by Margaritaville's opening.
Margaritaville is expected to open early in 2015.