Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s River Spirit Casino Resort Reopens to Public in Tulsa

The Resort committed to paying employees during record 29-day closure due to flooding in the Arkansas River

On Wednesday, May 22, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief James Floyd and Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos Chief Executive Officer Pat Crofts announced the River Spirit Casino Resort would close due to the anticipated rise of water in the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Okla.

As the largest employer impacted by the water, the River Spirit Casino Resort, quickly became a central focus of one of the most extended flood events in the history of Tulsa.

As water from the Arkansas River began to surround the property it was necessary to proactively shut down the power supply as the vaults containing the utilities are located underground. Prior to losing the power, hotel guests, visitors and non-critical employees were vacated from the property to ensure their safety.

River Spirit Casino Resort would Remain Closed for Another 29 Days

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation invested $600 million to build the River Spirit Casino Resort on its historic land. The first phase opened in 2009 and the final phase of the expansion opened in April 2017. The annual economic impact of the Resort on the greater Tulsa region is approximately $169 million.

River Spirit committed to paying employees during the closure and has a bi-monthly payroll of $2.5 million. The Resort employs 1,600 workers, of whom more than one-half are citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Margaritaville Corporation and Ruth’s Chris Steak House restaurant employs an additional 200 workers and also committed to paying employees during the closure.

Taking Care of Team Members

“Taking care of our employees remains a top priority. I am proud so many employees offered to come back and do anything to be of assistance and also volunteered to help other flood victims across the region. It is testament to a great employee force ingrained in the community,” Chief Floyd said.

Resort officials originally anticipated being closed through the month of June, but modified the date to reopen on Friday, June 21 after a full structural assessment of the buildings and public areas on the property after the river had receded from its high point.

Reopening the Casino

“The opening is a culmination of many weeks of work to mitigate the impact of the flood on the Resort property,” Chief Floyd said. “Through a remarkable test of endurance, the team at River Spirit has worked every day for 24 days to protect and restore the Resort. On behalf of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s citizens and National Council members, we offer our sincere appreciation for their long hours and dedication to the property.

River Spirit Casino Resort includes a 27 story, 483-room luxury hotel, two casinos with 3,600 gaming machines, Margaritaville Restaurant, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, an 1,800 seat performance theater, six additional bars and restaurants, and a 30,000 square foot Conference Center.

“Closing down a facility of this size within only hours of the increased water release was extremely complex. Which means it has been equally complex to reopen,” Crofts said. “What we had months to prepare for two years ago we are now working to do within days.”

As a preventative measure, the first action during the flood was to condition the air and prevent humidity from accumulating inside the Resort.

“Within 48 hours of closing, we had maintenance crews working around the clock to safeguard the air quality and ensure no moisture entered the 1.8 million square feet of the 27-story hotel, restaurants, casinos and theater. This investment of time and equipment was successful as we have no impact in these areas,” Crofts said. “More than 400 restoration workers have been working three shifts per day to prepare for our reopening.”

Impact to the Resort

The areas primarily impacted by the flood waters are on the ground level of the Resort. Restoration work includes cleaning the asphalt and concrete on all parking lots and parking structures. Additionally, the lowest elevation of the Resort, which contains the loading docks, storage area and mechanical management, are undergoing thorough remediation. In order to maintain the Resort’s pristine condition, operations has taken advantage of the time to perform extensive cleaning in all 483 hotel rooms, casinos and restaurants during the closure of a property normally open 24 hours a day.

“There are some hotel amenities, such as the spa and fitness center, that will reopen in phases as we work to revitalize those areas,” Crofts said. “We estimate the resort pool will reopen in late July as soon as the outdoor Land Shark Landing Bar and Tiki Bar dining are prepared to serve guests again.”

Submitted by Sheila Curley, Principal/Owner, sixPR