Tribal leaders want to slowly develop the northern part of the Gila River Indian Community into a destination spot for vacation and business travelers.
“Gila River has been patient and that could be seen as stubborn from the outside,” said Kimberly Lewis, general manager of the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority, which oversees about a 2,400-acre section of the Gila River community’s most valuable land for development.
Lewis made her comments during a Chandler Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.
About half of the authority’s land, set aside by the tribe about five years ago for commercial development, has already been developed into a resort and spa, a casino, a golf course, the Rawhide at Wild Horse Pass Western theme park and a half-filled threestory office park. In all, the developments employ about 3,000 people.
Officials expect the office park to be filled by year’s end, but say they’re challenged by perceptions that the facility is too far away “when really it’s just one more exit down,” Lewis said. The Wild Horse Pass area is southwest of Chandler, just off Interstate 10.
She also told the chamber that her group is working on a “significant retail” project now, but would not elaborate citing confidentiality agreements with developers.
In recent months, Chandler officials have voiced interest in partnering with the Gila River community on large projects. Mayor Boyd Dunn even suggested the city and tribe could pursue a regional sports venue together.
Chandler economic development director Richard Mulligan said Wednesday his staff has met with tribal officials, but would not say specifically what they talked about.
“I would characterize they’re open to anything,” he said of the Gila River community.