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Schlender Shares His Insights into Big Fish Purchase

Updated: Apr 1, 2019

By Joe Morey News Editor

The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board (TGB) purchased the Big Fish Golf Club on Friday, March 15, 2019, for $1.1 million. The Big Fish Golf Club is a Pete Dye designed public golf course which complements the Sevenwinds Casino, Lodge, and Conference Center as a premier guest destination in the Northwoods.

LCO Vice Chairman Jason Schlender provided his insights into the purchase of Big Fish Golf Club and some of the goals of the new Board of Directors, in which he was chosen to be chairman.

Prior to the purchase, the board was appointed by the TGB which consists of Randy Cadotte (Vice Chairman), David Fleming (Secretary-Treasurer) and other members include Sevenwinds Casino CEO, Michael Black, and Ariana Johnson, Legal Support Specialist of the Office of the LCO Attorney General.

Schlender said each board member has an extensive background and expertise in business management, marketing, gaming, and organizational management.

The Big Fish Golf Corporation is in the process of developing a managerial agreement with the Sevenwinds Casino, Lodge, and Conference Center so that the casino can manage the property and focus their strengths in extraordinary customer service, accounting, food & beverage, marketing, and security to best protect the investment of the tribe so it will be a profitable business.

“The golf course will prove to be a strong amenity for the casino,” Schlender explained. “With the golf course we can optimize the benefits for our casino guests and the community.”

Currently four employees have been retained from the previous management. They include Indy Thompson, Director of Golf, Lynell Swenson, bookkeeper, Bob Holmes as maintenance and groundskeeper and Susie Howard in housekeeping who is also a tribal member.

A job fair will be held on April 5th at the golf course to recruit candidates for employment for the upcoming season. Schlender said the course had a booth set up at the LCO College Career Fair this week and it did well in disseminating information about the golf course job opportunities.

Despite some opposition from tribal membership on the purchase, all seven TGB members were in favor of the acquisition. Schlender wanted those who questioned the deal to know that despite the course finishing last season with a profit, the intent to purchase was to provide a strong amenity for the casino, expand the boundaries of the reservation, and to keep the tribe progressive in its approach to economic development.

“We assert our tribal sovereignty by owning a golf course and making an economic impact on our neighbors here in Sawyer County,” Schlender stated. “And in the future beyond golf we can develop the lots into income generating properties like a hotel and condominiums...we have the capability to contribute to Sawyer County and to provide employment opportunities for tribal members and to be able to provide another tourist attraction as well. Golf is a sport people can play for their lifetime.” In addition, the cart paths at the golf course will be open for walking, running, bike riding.

Schlender explained one goal for the board of directors down the road is to develop a community facility on the property which would have therapy pools, an extensive workout area, and a communal space which would only add value to a Big Fish Golf Club membership. There is currently discussion amongst the tribal leadership to develop a hotel and water park on or near the casino or golf course footprint in the future as well.

Next week Schlender will be attending the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Conference in San Diego where he will be meeting with vendors and tribal leaders about future tribal endeavors. NIGA Chairman, Ernie Stevens Jr, is going to announce to the conference the tribe’s purchase of Big Fish which he hopes may open up other opportunities, such as conferences and other events being held at Sevenwinds and Big Fish Golf Club.

Also, while in San Diego, Schlender will be meeting with Navajo member and professional golfer Notah Begay in the hope they can reach an agreement for Notah to be a featured guest at the Big Fish Golf Club Grand Opening on May 11.

The Grand Opening will have tours, food, fun activities, and prizes to commemorate this accomplishment, Schlender noted. Invitations will go out to dignitaries from other tribes, local, state, and federal agencies.

Schlender concluded by saying, “Expanding our reservation by another 200 acres is great progress in contrast to the sad historical narrative of tribal land loss in this country.”

To read previous story announcing purchase;


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