The Gila River business empire - East Valley Tribune: Queen Creek & San Tan Valley

The Gila River business empire

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Posted: Monday, June 25, 2007 2:40 pm | Updated: 6:49 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Some of the business enterprises on the Gila River Indian Community include:

• A 16,000-acre farm, located near the center of the reservation, is the state’s largest producer of citrus — lemons, and some tangerines, tangelos, mineolas, grapefruits and oranges. It employs between 100 and 125 people, depending on the season.

Ninety percent of the employees are community members. The farm also produces a total agricultural product valued at more than $25 million a year in sales of cotton, wheat, alfalfa, oranges, watermelon, olives and honeydew. Crops are sold locally and exported, some as far as Japan. They are sold all over the Southwest with many citrus products bought by Sunkist and made into juice.

• Firebird International Raceway, located at 2000 S. Maricopa Road, Chandler, is a favorite for boat and auto racing. It hosts various local and national events, including club racing, Indy car testing, tent sales and RV and boat shows. The National Hot Rod Association holds its Checker Schuck’s Kragen Nationals as well as its Division 7 Opener at the track. Firebird Lake is the site of the International Hot Boat Association Coors Light World Finals Speed Boat Races.

• Rawhide Western Town and Steak House, a themed amusement park, moved to the reservation from Scottsdale in 2005. It features street shootouts, animal rides and a saloon. The park also has a stadium for events and was home to the 2006 Independence Day fireworks for Ahwatukee Foothills, attracting 10,000 visitors. Rawhide draws close to 600,000 visitors annually.

• Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa. The AAA Four Diamond resort features two championship 18-hole Troon-managed golf courses at the Whirlwind Golf Club, located off Maricopa Road and Interstate 10. The property is also home to the Aji Spa, a full-service spa boasting 17 treatment rooms, a salon, fitness center and a traditional Native American roundhouse.

• The Koli Equestrian Center, located directly behind the Wild Horse Pass Resort. The equestrian center offers riding lessons and trail rides across ancient tribal land.

• The HuHuGam Cultural Center houses and preserves tribal history, language and culture. It exhibits archaeological findings and holds classes and programs. The 40,435 square-foot center just off Interstate 10 sits on 68 acres of community land.

• Four industrial parks: Lone Butte, San Tan, Wild Horse Pass and Blackwater. Lone Butte is the largest with 48 tenants on 700 acres. The parks are home to mostly light industry, but also contain business offices and shipping and storage centers. Tenants range from aluminum companies and a gas company to a Verizon cellular telephone transmission tower. It has been called one of the nation’s most successful American Indian industrial parks. This October, the tribe celebrated the 40th anniversary of the park, which brings in about $1.5 million in revenue a year. The community hopes to expand the park; it is waiting for approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to add 98 acres.

• Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. The Firebird Raceway-based multi-million dollar racing school teaches beginning through advanced students the thrill and skill of high performance driving and racing.

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