Four Winds Dowagiac opening soonPublished 9:53am Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Despite a Feb. 16 snow storm, 500 people appeared at Dowagiac Middle School’s job fair for approximately 100 full- and part-time postions at Four Winds Dowagiac, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians’ third Southwest Michigan casino.
Two hundred and 50 came in the first hour, where one executive expected to see 150 to 200 all day.
Four Winds Dowagiac, with 27,000 square feet and 12,000 square feet of gaming, is scheduled to open this spring on M-51 South in Pokagon Township.
It will include 300 slot machines, four table games, a 30-seat Timbers restaurant and parking for 300.
Chairman Matt Wesaw and General Manager Matt Harkness gave the media its first peek inside the new facility Monday morning.
“We haven’t finalized (an opening) date yet,” Harkness said.
“This is significant because it’s home to a lot of our Pokagon citizens,” Wesaw said, “and our government offices. Four Winds will create more than 100 jobs, which is very exciting, not only for our people, but also for the local community.”
Harkness introduced Assistant General Manager Frank Freedman and three property shift managers, Eugene Magnuson, Mary Jo Varga and Duane Meyers.
Freedman, who oversees administrative aspects of both Hartford and Dowagiac, said gaming at the three sites provides employment for 2,200.
“Four Winds Dowagiac is going to have the same look and feel as New Buffalo and Hartford,” Harkness said. “Hartford is about 600 slot machines, so it’s about half the size of Hartford. We have the largest progressive slot machines in the area, hooked up to the Native American progressive that goes out to the entire country. We’ve had jackpots at Four Winds properties over $1 million.”
With tile being laid at the main entrance, the tour entered through a side fire exit.
The cage and W club share an area.
Twenty games occupy a non-smoking area.
The hearth room combines a fire and artwork for a cultural element, given that the Pokagons are the keepers of the fire.
The property shift managers bring varied backgrounds.
“I started in health care with food,” Magnuson said. “This is my first time in gaming, so I’m pretty excited. For 8 1/2 years I worked as director of dietetics and nutrition for hospitals. I’ve been on board here for about 10 months.”
Varga said, “I started in New Buffalo when it opened” in the summer of 2007. “I was a financial analyst, so I did a lot of reporting on the gaming aspect. I’m currently in Hartford.”
Meyers worked in retail for more than 25 years.
“I’ve worked with the public all my life, since the ’70s,” Meyers said. “I worked for D&W Food Centers and Harding’s Markets. I started about a month before the casino opened in New Buffalo. I helped open Hartford as a property manager. We have about half the people hired we’re going to hire. There were a lot to choose from” — 900 with applications submitted online.
Freedman joined Four Winds in April 2007, before New Buffalo opened in August.
“My background is in the hospitality and amenities end of the business — food, beverage, night clubs, bars, hotels. All the fun stuff,” Freedman said. “Matt came from the other side of the fence, gaming and marketing.” Both men live in Granger, Ind.
Freedman said Hard Rock Café Four Winds, which opened in July, “is working out great. It’s an amenity,” like another addition, Silver Creek Event Center, a 1,500-seat, multi-use facility for concerts and conferences.
“Four Winds New Buffalo is a destination, so in addition to gaming, there needs to be more things to do,” Freedman said. The Berrien County property offers 3,000 slot machines, four restaurants, retail venues and a 415-room hotel.
“This is more of a locals casino,” Freedman said. “It’s clear that in a smaller facility, people pop in and out. They might come at lunch and play a little bit. The length of stay for each guest is shorter, and it’s designed that way. There’s more turnover. You might drive to New Buffalo once a week or every other week. Now, you can pop in here for an hour or two. Here, we’re looking to see more people come up from South Bend and Elkhart,” Ind. “It gives the Band another good business opportunity.”
The Timbers menu includes fresh-made burgers, big salads, hand-crafted sandwiches and “comfort food,” such as open-faced hot roast beef sandwiches and pot pies.