The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, the largest employer in East Central Minnesota, is increasing its business holdings with the purchase of two major hotels in St. Paul.
The hotels, the 470-room Crowne Plaza on Kellogg Boulevard, and the 250-room Doubletree Hilton in the heart of downtown St. Paul, represent nearly half of the available lodging in St. Paul. The Crowne Plaza is located at the Downtown Riverfront with expansive Mississippi River views, and the Doubletree Hilton sits in the center of St. Paul's bustling entertainment and business district.
The acquisitions are the first in a series of planned investments by the Mille Lacs Band Corporate Commission. The expansion is part of Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin's economic development vision, focused on non-gaming projects, as articulated in her 2013 State of the Band address. The tribe owns and operates more than 30 businesses, including casino-related hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues, as well as convenience stores, a grocery store, a movie theater, and several branches of Woodlands National Bank. But its main revenue source has been gaming, including the Grand Casino MIlle Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley.
The tribe has no plans for gaming in Minnesota's capital city.
This morning, March 11, Mille Lacs Commissioner of Corporate Affairs Joseph Nayquonabe, Jr. lead a press conference discussing the business goals of the venture, planned improvements for the hotels, as well as what the Band's ownership will mean for the City of St. Paul.
St. Paul Chamber President Matt Kramer told Kare-11 News on March 8 that the Band's acquisition of the hotels is "a fantastic thing for St. Paul." He cited the Band's 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, and its commitment to refurbishing the properties to maximize their value as cornerstones of the core downtown. The tribe plans to make the hotels "more visible from the street level" and create "more of a presence," Kramer told the news station.
Other dignitaries who were scheduled to attend the press conference included Ben Graves of Graves Hospitality, Inc. and Deputy St. Paul Mayor Paul Williams.