The Quapaw Nation is moving forward with work on the Saracen Casino and Resort as well as upgrades to the Southern Edge truck stop, where a casino annex is being constructed. Residents will be able to see work being done at both locations along Highway US79/63 near the Martha Mitchell Expressway.

“We are moving forward, and it is awesome to be able to do so,” said Chief John Berrey with the Quapaw Nation. “There is work being done on both sides of the road, but it is probably more obvious at the store. We expect the truck stop to be back in service here in just a few weeks.”

However, “It will be a couple of months before we get the casino annex open … we wanted to focus on getting the truck stop back open,” Berrey continued. “We have interviewed people who lost their jobs when it closed, and we are excited that some of them have jobs from us and will be a part of the family.”

Berrey said that the truck stop will have additions to the food menu once they reopen as well.

“We loved what they were doing, but we are going add beef, pork and bison products so people can get their first experience of the quality that we believe in,” Berrey said.

“We raise purebred bison and purebred black angus beef, and all of our steers’ grade out at 96 percent prime.”

The Arkansas Racing Commission granted Downstream Development/Quapaw Nation their gaming license on June 13. Ground was broken that afternoon to begin construction of the casino resort. Berrey noted that there are several good things happening in Pine Bluff, and there is a feeling of hope that is coming along with it.

“I am super excited for the people of Jefferson County, the people of Pine Bluff, and my tribal nation,” Berrey said. “It is really a game changer for all of us. We are all going to work together to do it. There are a lot of exciting things happening in Pine Bluff. We had the Aquatics Center open this past weekend. There is just a feeling of excitement in Pine Bluff today, and a feeling of hope. That is a good feeling, and we are happy to be a part of that.”

Berrey added that there were similar feelings in Quapaw, Oklahoma, when Downstream Casino Resort was under construction there.

“There was skepticism, and people said we wasn’t going to do what we said we was going to do, but we proved them wrong. Now they are our friends, customers and employees,” Berrey said. “Change brings about all kinds of peoples voices and questions. I understand that and get that, but as we go forward I think we will have more and more people who are excited and happy. We will have people working for us and working with us, then add that tax dollar stream into the city and county will help provide better services. It is all good, and a win-win for everyone.”

Quapaw Nation has stepped up to help with tornado and flood recovery efforts, in addition to helping with other projects around Pine Bluff. Berrey said that the efforts are to show their sense of community, and willingness to help.

“That is what this whole thing is about. That is who we are and what we do,” Berrey said. “We are a nation, and our money goes to our people to service the communities that we live in. As soon as the flooding hit, I got on the phone with Mayor Shirley Washington and Judge Gerald Robinson and was able to get water and ice machines down there. We are not done, either. We have also refurbished four basketball courts and repaved the parking lot at the health department. That is just who we are, and we are happy to be a part of the community. I am looking forward to spending more and more time in Pine Bluff because I like the people.”

Berrey and his staff will be back in Pine Bluff on Tuesday, July 9, for a meeting at the Pine Bluff Convention Center at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend to get the latest information on the progress of the casino.

“We are showing them that we are busting tail and getting things going,” Berrey said. “We have got the infrastructure design, we have got the steel and foundation designs. Now we are going through the details of finishes. We have room layouts done. You will see, we will build this thing quicker than some people build a house.”