Cherokee immersion school to obtain former Tahlequah casino
An artist’s rendering of the former Cherokee Casino Tahlequah at 16489 Highway 62. With the new larger casino open at Cherokee Springs Plaza, the old casino will eventually be used for the Cherokee Immersion Charter School. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Plans for the facility that housed the old Cherokee Casino Tahlequah near Sequoyah Schools are to eventually donate it to the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Immersion Charter School.
CN officials confirmed that planning for converting the old casino for the school’s use is in the early stages. The facility is currently housing electronic gaming machines from the Cherokee Casino Fort Gibson, which closed due to flooding in May and is expected to reopen in September, CN officials said.
The new Cherokee Casino Tahlequah opened earlier this year inside a 92,000-square-foot facility at the Cherokee Springs Plaza, about 3 miles east of the old facility along Highway 62. The new casino holds more than 500 electronic games, a 144-seat restaurant, a grab-and-go café, a live music venue, complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and 33,000 square feet of convention and meeting space to accommodate up to 1,000 people.
The previous casino was 6,080 square feet, held a little more than 200 games and offered the River City Café. That facility is located at 16489 Highway 62, less than a mile from the current Cherokee Immersion Charter School.
According to a 2014 Cherokee Phoenix story, CN officials said the donation of the old casino to the immersion school would help expand and grow language programs for the tribe’s youth.
Then-Principal Chief Bill John Baker said following the opening of the new casino at Cherokee Springs Plaza, the immersion school would use the old casino.
“We designed it that way when we built it…so we won’t have two casinos. But when we build the one there (at Cherokee Springs Plaza), the one out here (near Sequoyah) will become the immersion school,” Baker said.
The immersion school started as a language preservation program in 2001 and instructs students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade in the Cherokee language. The school also has a bridge program for seventh and eighth grade students who will transition to public school or to Sequoyah High School.
“We are investing more than $4 million to remodel and expand the Cherokee Language Center that was the old Tahlequah casino, because preserving and protecting our Cherokee language is a top priority of my administration,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.
The casino will house the Immersion School, translation and master apprentice. It is being expanded to fit the growing programs.