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The Ho-Chunk Nation’s Beloit casino and resort project took a major step forward when Gov. Tony Evers ruled in favor of the project’s proposed site being declared trust land for the tribe.

BELOIT—Beloit residents and visitors may see activity on the future site of the Ho-Chunk Nation’s casino-resort entertainment complex with preliminary work related to the project’s final design set to start soon.

However, a start for actual construction of the complex remains “a moving target,” according to a tribe official.

A contractor for the tribe will conduct geotechnical soil borings around the site, approximately 75 acres just west of Interstate 39/90 near the intersection of Willowbrook and Colley roads, Public Relations Office Ryan Greendeer confirmed to the Beloit Daily News on Tuesday.

The borings are critical to understanding the soil structure below the property. The use of borings requires digging holes at depths up to 75 feet to obtain soil samples that are undisturbed as possible through techniques known as the long split-spoon and piston samplers. The borings will help the design team and geologists to understand the soil bearing pressure, the active soil load, location of groundwater tables and the soil layer characteristics.

The use of the soil samples actually plays into the final design of the $405 million complex and the project can’t move forward without them.

“The compilation of these test results in turn allows the structural engineer to design the diameter and depth of the concrete piles and caissons required for the foundations of our buildings,” Greendeer said.

But Greendeer stressed the soil work was not part of the vital fee-to-trust land transfer process that remains pending with the Department of the Interior.

“The actual project is proceeding with design while we await a final decision by the (department) and the transfer of the property,” Greendeer said.

On March 24, Gov. Tony Evers approved the tribe’s casino and resort plan by concurring with a federal decision to move land designated for the project into trust status to the tribe.

Since then, the tribe has waited on the Bureau of Indian Affairs to accept the land into trust status, which is the main reason construction at the site has not yet started.

“Our timeline includes site work and infrastructure on approval, then building begins when feasible. This is a moving target,” Greendeer said.

As previously reported by the Beloit Daily News, the gaming and family entertainment destination is projected to bring about 1,500 permanent jobs and “thousands” of construction jobs to the Beloit area, the tribe said following Evers’ action last spring.

Once fully-developed, the site may feature a 300-room hotel, five restaurants and 2,200 slots along with 50 table games in the casino. The project is expected to also include a 40,000-square-foot water park, an employee child care facility and 30,000-square-foot conference center and entertainment venue.

Casino History

The idea for a tribal casino in Beloit dates back to the 1990s. A referendum on a tribal casino in Beloit was approved by a majority of Beloit voters in 1999.

The Bad River Lake Superior Chippewa and the St. Croix Chippewa made a proposal to establish a casino in Beloit, but in 2001, the application to place the land for the casino in trust was rejected by the U.S. Department of Interior. Then, the casino proposal was rejected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2009.

In 2009, the Ho-Chunk Nation purchased 30 acres of land where the Chippewa bands had planned to build a casino. The Ho-Chunk purchased 41 acres of land in the area from the City of Beloit in 2013 and moved forward with its own casino project application starting in 2012.

On April 16, 2020, the U.S. Department of Interior approved the Ho-Chunk proposal for a Beloit casino by issuing an approval of land into trust status for a portion of the 70-acre property.