HANKINSON, N.D. (AP) -- The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux and White Earth Chippewa tribes want to be big players in the convention business.
Both have invested millions of dollars on facilities in hopes of bringing conferences, trade shows and entertainment to their casinos. The investments are bound to bring new dollars into the Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., regional trade area.
But the investments also put the tribal-owned facilities in direct competition with hotel and conference centers in the region.
"Every conference center that gets built is competition," said Cole Carley, executive director of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Shooting Star Casino at Mahnomen, Minn., is now known as Shooting Star Casino, Hotel & Event Center. Dakota Magic Casino at the North Dakota-South Dakota border south of Hankinson has become Dakota Magic Entertainment & Convention Center.
Dakota Magic opened its 24,000-square-foot convention center last fall. The facility has since hosted a wide array of events, from concerts and conferences to Christmas parties and trade shows.
"I believe we're a draw for Fargo groups," said Laurie Petersen, group sales coordinator at Dakota Magic.
At Shooting Star, marketing manager Dave Bren and his staff are aggressively courting convention planners. Shooting Star is undergoing a $31 million expansion and remodeling project.
It represents the largest infusion of cash in Shooting Star since it opened in 1992. The centerpiece of the project is a 22,000-square-foot convention center, which opens in May. Its 15,000-square-foot events center is equal in size to the Fargo Ramada Plaza Suites & Conference Center's Crystal Ballroom.
Bren said Shooting Star is going after conferences and conventions attended by groups ranging from 50 to 600, although his facility can accommodate groups as large as 1,500.
"We knew the need was out there for larger groups," Bren said. "But we're not saying we're going after the really big conferences that go to the Twin Cities or Fargo. That doesn't pay, because then we'd be turning away our normal, everyday gambling traffic."
They may not be going after big, Fargo-bound conferences, but competition is competition to those in the Fargo-Moorhead convention industry.
"You can't tell me it's not competition," said Gary Granbois, regional sales manager at Fargo's Ramada. "It all has a trickle-down effect. There is a lot of competition in this industry."
At the same time, he says, it's a growing industry. Granbois said there is a demand for quality meeting and banquet facilities.
Shooting Star, because of its hotel facilities, is definitely a player, he said.
With an expansion of the adjacent Stardust Suites hotel -- which the tribe acquired last year -- the Shooting Star complex will have nearly 400 rooms.
Dakota Magic, with just 84 rooms, is more limited, Granbois said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.