An Oklahoma-based Indian tribe that once explored building a casino in Lawrence and was recently reported to be interested in moving its tribal headquarters to Kansas has purchased 87 acres of prime property along the Kansas Turnpike near the North Lawrence interchange.
A Delaware Tribe of Indians spokesman declined to comment on whether the tribe has an interest in building a casino or headquarters on the property. In a written statement, tribal leaders said plans are likely to include housing, child care and a medical clinic to serve the state’s American Indian population.
In March, the Oklahoma City Oklahoman reported that the Delaware were considering moving their tribal headquarters from Bartlesville, Okla., to Wyandotte or Leavenworth counties in Kansas because of restrictions they faced in Oklahoma.
The land the tribe purchased in Lawrence earlier this month was owned by the Pine Family Farms operation just east of the North Lawrence interchange.
“The Lawrence property is seen as an investment in the future as the tribe promotes its theme of ‘Return to Kansas,’” the tribe said in its statement.
The tribe lived on a reservation between Lawrence and Leavenworth between 1830 and 1866. Following the Civil War, the federal government forced the tribe to move to an Oklahoma reservation.
In 2000 the Delaware tribe expressed strong interest in building a casino complex on 80 acres in the same vicinity.
Back then, before the multimillion-dollar Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway was built in Wyandotte County, the tribe was exploring a casino with a 400-room hotel, convention center and museum. Dee Ketchum, a Kansas University basketball player in the 1950s, was chief of the Delaware tribe at the time and estimated the complex would add about $50 million a year to the Lawrence economy.
The Oklahoman reported that Ketchum met with Leavenworth city officials in March. The newspaper reported that the Delaware tribe was seeking a new headquarters because of restrictions faced at its site in Oklahoma, which falls under the jurisdiction of another tribe.
The tribe’s 2000 Lawrence casino plans stalled after several groups formed in opposition, citing concerns that a casino would bring crime and gambling addiction.
Ted Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Association, said he had heard about the Delaware’s land purchase. He said he’s confident North Lawrence residents would be strongly opposed to a casino on the site. He cited concerns ranging from storm-water flooding issues to increased traffic and crime.
“We will fight this, if that is what this is about,” Boyle said. “This wouldn’t just negatively impact North Lawrence. It would negatively impact Lawrence as a whole.”
Boyle said he is aware that the tribe has announced no plans to build a casino on the site, but he said the fact the tribe hasn’t ruled out that possibility has him wary.
“I believe this first deal is just to get their foot in the door,” Boyle said.
Unlike the last time the tribe explored options in Lawrence, it has finalized the purchase of the property. Records from the Douglas County Register of Deeds show the tribe completed three purchases, two from Pine Family Investments LC and one from Brian and Kathleen Pine, on July 10 and July 11. The tribe has formed a wholly owned subsidiary, LTI Enterprises LLC, to own the property.
The sale did not include all of the property associated with the Pine family farm. According to records on file at the courthouse, the sale included the southern 90 acres of the property. Those are the most highly visible acres of the farm because they are closest to the Kansas Turnpike, which carries thousands of vehicles per day.
Sue Pine, who along with her husband, Roger, led the farming and sod grass operations for a number of years, referred questions to her son Brian. He did not return calls seeking comment.
In a previous news story, Roger Pine said the family had been farming in the North Lawrence area since 1868. The family has entertained offers for the property in the past, most recently a 2007 plan to convert the area into a large industrial park. That proposal stalled after neighbors expressed concern about the flooding that would be caused by development of the low-lying property.