O’Chiese First Nation celebrates purchase of Red Deer hotel
O’Chiese First Nation Chief Douglas Beaverbones said buying the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre is a big part of its economic development dreams.
“Today, is a huge event for our nation. It’s big accomplishment for our people, our nation,” said Beaverbones, at a ceremony at the hotel celebrating the purchase by O’Chiese Hospitality Limited Partnership.
The event was attended by Premier Jason Kenney, government ministers and other dignitaries and business representatives from the region.
The partnership purchased the hotel, located at the corner of Gaetz Avenue and 32nd Street, from Temple Hotels Inc.
In 2019, the Sheraton Hotel was rebranded as the Cambridge Hotel.
The hotel originated as the Capri Motel Inn in 1961, with Al Pasutto buying it three years later. A number of expansions occurred over the years, including the addition of the hotel’s tower in 1981.
Beaverbones said the nation has been pursuing economic diversification for the past few years through numerous business ventures. The nation has bought apartments and duplexes in Edmonton, paved the main road on the reserve and bought a new school as part of efforts to boost economic development. The housing units can be used by O’Chiese students attending post-secondary education in Edmonton.
When the Cambridge hotel came up for sale, the nation saw an opportunity.
“We thought about it for a while. Then I said, ‘Why don’t we just purchase that? It’s a good investment for our people.’”
The hospitality industry was hard hit by the pandemic, with most hotels and motels near empty for months. But O’Chiese saw the post-pandemic potential.
“We took a chance. We gambled on it. But now look at it. When COVID’s done we can start making money on it.”
The investment will benefit all of those living on the reserve from the children to the elders, he said.
Down the road, a casino may be added to the hotel to attract more business.
“There is so much we can do for our nation and there is so much opportunity out there.”
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said besides its economic benefits the project will help create more cultural awareness.
“We remain, above all, committed to living out truth and reconciliation locally, not just in word or symbolic gestures, but in our attitudes and our actions through the new paths we are forging together.”
Premier Jason Kenney said O’Chiese is taking charge of its destiny and the revenue generated by the hotel will be reinvested in the nation strengthening its financial independence and autonomy.