SOUTH BEND — More than five years after the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians announced plans to build a casino in northern Indiana, Four Winds South Bend stands ready to open next week.
In 2012, a notice of intent in the Federal Register publicly signaled the band’s intent to build a casino and tribal village on a 166-acre site on the city’s southwest side, south of Prairie Avenue.
Now, the freshly completed 175,000-square-foot facility stands on the site, prepared to be the first Indian casino in the state of Indiana. And Tuesday at 4 p.m., four restaurants, three bars and a 55,000-square-foot gaming floor will be open to the public.
Neon lights and electronic slots are mixed with architecture that pays homage to the tribe’s heritage, including a basket weave-inspired design in the front atrium and a large fireplace next to the entrance. The Potawatomi name translates to “people of the fire” and Pokagon Band vice chairman Bob Moody said once the fireplace is lit, it will never be extinguished.
“This is an area that Leopold Pokagon and the people of his time lived in,” said Moody. “We’ve put together the last piece of the puzzle for our people, to bring together a piece of their ancestral heritage.”
Moody said the bend in the St. Joseph River played a special role for the Potawatomi tribe, where they met with European settlers to trade goods.
The band’s pursuit of casino ventures began with the opening of Four Winds New Buffalo in 2007 and has since opened two more Michigan casinos in Hartford and Dowagiac. Four Winds South Bend, the fourth, establishes a tribal presence in all the areas the Potawatomi once called home.