By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
A proposal to build a 24-lane bowling center adjacent to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort was withdrawn during the Budget Council session on Tuesday, Sept. 8. The project involved building the bowling alley with an entertainment component at the casino to the tune of $15,000,000.
“Our community said they’d like to see it withdrawn,” Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy said during the debate on the issue on Tuesday. “They felt like it was no place to take children.”
She said her family enjoys bowling but herself and most members in the Big Cove Community are against the idea of having it at the casino. “It is fun, but I just don’t know how I feel about taking a four-year-old into the casino.”
Yellowhill Rep. B. Ensley is the chairman of Planning Board where the idea for a bowling alley has been discussed for years. “The casino is the only place it’s feasible to do this project. We told them we didn’t want kids going into the casino, so they put it outside.”
Later in the debate, Rep. Ensley made the motion to withdraw so that the idea could be better explored from a community standpoint and a budgetary standpoint.
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke commented, “Our seniors want a bowling alley. They told us they didn’t care where it was.”
Geraldine Thompson, an EBCI elder who participates in the Senior Games, related, “We’d like to have one built somewhere. I’m against it being up at the casino. You can always find places to build. Let’s do it for the seniors.”
Doug Cole, Tribal Planning Office, said that the feasibility study completed on the project stated that the Tribe would probably end up having to subsidize a bowling alley built in the community at around $2 million annually as opposed to making a $6.5 million profit annually if it were to be located at the casino.
He said that stand-alone bowling alleys are rare these days. “The last stand-alone bowling alley built in the United States was built in 1995, and the last one in western North Carolina was built in 1965.”
Principal Chief-elect Patrick Lambert said that $15 million is an “exorbitant” amount for a bowling alley and related that he prefers the idea of community lanes that would cost several hundred thousand dollars. “I think it’s a matter of scale.”
Rep. McCoy added, “This project, up at the casino, is not going to be for your people. It’s going to be for others.” She prefers a smaller, community bowling alley. “It seems everything that we’ve done lately is for the casino to get better, and I’d like to see our own people get better.”
Tribal Council Chairwoman noted, “This needs more discussion. If we’re not going to put it at the casino, which comes in at a price tag of $15 million, then we need to look at the community option and see what the price tag there is.”
Edith Crowe, an EBCI elder from the Wolfetown Community, said, “We do need a bowling alley and not just for the seniors. I have a three-year-old grandson who loves to go bowling”
She said it is important to give young people things to do as well. “It’s not going to just benefit the elders. It’s for the young people too.”