Cover Story

Community seniors were given a private tour of the new Talking Stick Resort.
Photo by Richie Corrales

Talking Stick Resort Holds Soft Opening

By Richie Corrales and Tasha Silverhorn
Au-Authm Action News

On April 14, the staff of Casino Arizona were up bright and early preparing for the opening of the new Talking Stick Resort. The 15-story resort features 497 guestrooms, 10 lounges and eight restaurants, a showroom, a spa, and the new 240,000-square-foot Casino Arizona, offering 800 slot machines, poker and blackjack.

Although the 15th was the day the resort opened to the public, on the 14th the resort had a “soft opening” to allow members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to experience the resort for themselves.

Preview Tours
During the day, close to 200 Community members had the opportunity to tour the resort, with the first group going through in the morning and the second group in the afternoon. Both groups gathered at the Salt River Community Building to take a bus to the Talking Stick Resort for their tour. Community members anxiously waited with their families to get off the bus and preview the resort.

As they walked off the buses, the groups were greeted by Talking Stick Resort staff members. As staff members led tours of various areas in the resort, other Talking Stick employees continued working in the background on small last-minute jobs, such as adjusting fixtures, working on slot machines or painting as they got ready to open the casino to the public the next day.

Community Family Celebration

Later that evening, close to 3,500 Community members and their immediate family members came through the doors of the Talking Stick Resort for the Community Family Celebration. Families stood in lines that snaked through the parking garage entrance all the way to the gaming floor and Grand Ballroom entrance.

As guests entered the Grand Ballroom, they were greeted by stilt walkers and saw an array of festivities that had been set up for their enjoyment. Community members over 21 were given raffle tickets; prizes included a 50-inch TV, a Nintendo Wii game console, an iPod and a $50 gift card to Casino Arizona. They also received a certificate for a free gift: a coffee mug filled with packaged samples of the coffee that will be served at the Talking Stick Resort.

Buffet tables featured food samples from all of the resort’s restaurants. For the children, there were inflatable jumpers and slides, along with a balloon artist and face painters. For teens, there were interactive games like Halo, Guitar Hero and Mario Kart racing. Community member DJ Element and the Motion Theory Dance Crew performed, and in a special photo booth, families could have their picture taken with the Talking Stick Resort in the background.

During the evening, families also had the opportunity to tour the resort. Many who visited the demonstration suite were in awe of the room’s interior design and the quality of the materials used. Up on the 15th floor, visitors were amazed at the view and the layout of the Orange Sky Restaurant. Some even had the opportunity to book a reservation; by the end of the evening, Orange Sky was booked for the next 30 days.

As guests headed back to the gaming floor, they saw other highlights of the resort, including the showroom, where performances by George Clinton, Brian Wilson, Clint Black, Smokey Robinson, Cheap Trick, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are already on the schedule.

The tour groups also stopped at the cigar lounge, the Wandering Horse Buffet, the Ocean Trail restaurant’s seafood station, the Black Fig Bistro and the Cultural Center, which features artworks by different artisans of the Community near the hotel lobby.

Community Reaction
“Spectacular,” “amazing” and “wonderful” were some of the common reactions among the Community members.

“This is breathtaking; we did not think we would have seen this in our lifetime,” said Community member Gale Biakeddy.

The only letdown for several Community members seemed to be the new casino’s poker room. They said they missed the big-screen TVs that were in the old poker room.

“Those big-screen projector TVs were something that we were famous for,” said one Community member. “The screens in the tents were fun to watch games on, no matter where you were on the casino floor.”

Back in the Grand Ballroom, guests awaited the evening’s live entertainment, a show by three-time Grammy Award–winning group Los Lobos. When Los Lobos started to play, couples jumped at the opportunity to get out on the dance floor.

The group played a special song for the children in attendance, the theme song to the Disney cartoon Handy Manny, and they also played “La Bamba.”

The next morning at 6 a.m., Talking Stick Resort opened its doors to the public.

"Talking Stick Resort is the result of many years of planning and hours of hard work., and to see it come to fruition is truly a source of pride for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and everyone involved in the project. I'm fortunate to have been a part of many firsts with Casino Arizona, but I have to say that the phase one opening of Talking Stick Resort was one of the most exciting. It is an entertainment destination unlike anything else in Scottsdale," said Talking Stick Resort Public Relations Director Ramon Martinez.

For more information on Talking Stick Resort, including restaurant reservations, shows, hotel reservations and more, call 866-877-9897 or visit

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