The chief of Tsuu T'ina Nation announced big expansion plans at the Grey Eagle Casino include a four-and-a-half-star hotel with 178 rooms, a 2,000-seat entertainment centre for conferences and concerts and up to 300 new slot machines.

Construction is expected to start soon for the estimated $65-million project, said Sanford Big Plume Tuesday morning.

Big Plume says there is a need for more amenities at the casino, and in southwest Calgary.

He says the money the reserve is making from the casino is improving life for his people by providing free post-secondary education and solving a housing shortage.


A concept drawing of the expansion plans for the Grey Eagle Casino. (Tsuu T'ina Nation)

"Believe me, the people are very thankful," said Big Plume, pointing to 140 new homes built on Tsuu T'ina land.

The expansion is planned for the west side of the current casino building, but a news release Monday said the announcement will include significant additions that will affect Calgary.

In the past, traffic tie ups have been a major problem for people who live near the casino.

Concerns expressed

Amy Lonsberry, president of the Lakeview Community Association, says those concerns have been expressed to Tsuu T'ina Nation.

Lonsberry hopes to hear more about how the expansion plans will affect the neighbouring communties:


The Grey Eagle Casino opened on the Tsuu T'ina reserve in December 2007. (Google street view)

"Particularly as they hit the construction phase and there [are]

 bigger trucks and that sort of thing," she said. "If they're able to communicate that sort of thing — when that might start — that just helps people plan their driving routes."

Big Plume says traffic studies have shown the expansion will not cause any serious traffic concerns, even though the casino will continue to rely on just the 37th Street entrance.

He also points out only 60 people from nearby communities attended a public meeting about the expansion.

Greater access to the reserve could come with a future ring road, and Big Plume says negotiations with the province on a southwest ring road are going well — but any deal would have to work for his people before he could ever sign on the dotted line.

Lonsberry says the casino has been a good neighbour so far, and she doesn't expect that to change with the new expansion announcement.

The Grey Eagle Casino opened on the Tsuu T'ina reserve in December 2007.