MARICOPA — When Ak-Chin Indian Community Chairman Robert Miguel scans the Maricopa landscape, he envisions growth and an entertainment mecca, attracting visitors from across the region to idle away the hours relaxing and having fun.
“Entertainment is definitely a focal point for the Ak-Chin community,” Miguel said. “We always wanted to become the entertainment capital of the area.”
With a side-by-side casino and family multi-tainment center on Maricopa Road as well as a golf course, Miguel said the community is currently weighing options as to what type of entertainment to open next.
“We’ve had several proposals of some great things we’re looking at,” Miguel said. “These are great opportunities. We’re excited for the future.” Because the community is currently evaluating each proposal, Miguel could not elaborate on the type of entertainment the projects are, but he did say what Ak-Chin focuses on next will be something completely new for the area.
“Our vision entails development of the area and continuing our great relationship with the city of Maricopa,” he said. “We try to not duplicate what we do. And as Maricopa continues to grow, we see ourselves balancing the needs of the entire community.”
For the past few decades, he said, the Ak-Chin community has focused on providing entertainment venues that would add value to life in the area.
While agriculture has always been a mainstay of the Ak-Chin community, leaders turned their attentions to entertainment years ago to give the people of the area quality entertainment options so that they didn’t have to travel far for a good time.
In 1994, the community diversified from agriculture by partnering with Harrah’s to build a new casino on the edge of the reservation near what was then the small town of Maricopa.
The casino positioned the Ak-Chin community to take advantage of the emerging business of Native American gambling in Arizona. In 2001, the tribe added a 148-unit resort hotel.
In 2010 the hotel was expanded and the tribe purchased the Southern Dunes Golf Course. In 2012, the tribe opened the multi-tainment center, partnering with UltraStar to run it.
UltraStar Multi-tainment Center includes an amphitheater, movie theaters, a restaurant, a lounge, bowling alleys, a game center and an events center.
Over the decades, the area grew as an entertainment center. In 2019 the tribe undertook a multimillion-dollar casino expansion, adding 230 rooms to the hotel, building a parking garage and adding new restaurants, a wine bar, a spa and a concert venue to its casino-multi-tainment center complex. An interior pedestrian bridge now connects the casino and the multi-tainment center and the parking garage.
With the renovation, the casino also added its new Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin to serve as a venue for concerts, shows and events.
“It gives us the opportunity to provide first-rate entertainment,” Miguel said.
The multi-tainment center offers bowling, laser tag, restaurants, arcade games and a movie theater.
“It’s also a place for people to gather to watch ball games and enjoy their leisure time,” Miguel said. “It’s a place to enjoy time with family and friends and socialize.”
The community recently assumed management of the multi-tainment center, ending its relationship with UltraStar.
“It was always part of the plan that the community would run the multi-tainment center,” Miguel said. “It’s another move in the direction of making entertainment a focal point.”
Miguel was elected as the Ak-Chin Tribal Council chairman in 2016. Before serving on the council, he had a career working with Ak-Chin Farms, Parks and Recreation and the Ak-Chin O’odham Runner newspaper.
Adding more entertainment venues to the community is a win-win for the community and area residents.
“Because of the entertainment venues we’ve added, people don’t have to travel to other communities for fine dining, movies, bowling and other types of entertainment,” Miguel said. “Financially, it’s good for the community and for our members and area residents — it gives them quality places to spend their leisure time.”
With new projects on the horizon, he said members of the community are poised for an exciting future.
“I’ve always wanted to see the community as the entertainment capital of the area and a one-stop shop for all things related to entertainment,” Miguel said. “It’s exciting seeing things happen.”