Pascua Yaqui Tribe Demolishes Tucson Theater To Build Casino Complex

Written By Aleeyah Jadavji on March 3, 2023
Pascua Yaqui Tribe to build casino resort on Grant Road in Tucson

A former movie theater, Century Park 16 Theaters, formerly Tucson 5 Drive-in, has been demolished. The property, which is next to Pascua Yaqui Village near Interstate 10, and is being turned into a hotel and casino.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe plans to fulfill a longtime dream of the residents of the Old Pascua Village. President Joe Biden signing the Old Pascua Community Land Acquisition Act last December paved the way for the new Arizona casino complex. The property is now considered sovereign land.

Pascua Yaqui Tribe runs 2 other Tucson-area casinos

There are more than two dozen tribal casinos in Arizona. Most of them are in and around the state’s two largest cities, Phoenix and Tucson. Arizona online casinos are prohibited, one of the few forms of gambling not allowed in The Grand Canyon State.

The former theater is not the only business that will be uprooted to build the casino complex. Businesses such as Habitat for Humanity, Sonic and Tucson Indoor Sports Center will have to vacate for the new project.

Before the tribe was able to acquire the land with Biden’s signature, Tribal Chairman Peter Yucupicio said optimism was low.

“There was doubt. People thought it would never happen … it’s in our hands now.”

In addition to this new casino resort, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe also owns and operates Casino del Sol Resort and Casino of the Sun, both in the Tucson area.

Two phases of construction

Upon completion of the demolition, the first of two phases will kick into gear. Phase 1 will be construction of the casino, a parking garage and three food and beverage areas.

Executives project that once underground utilities and site work is complete, construction on Phase 1 will take between 18 and 24 months to complete. 

The next phase will include construction of a hotel and conference center, along with another parking garage. There’s no timeline on Phase 2.

Historic ties make development significant to the Pascua Yaqui people

According to US Rep. Raul Grijalva’s website, The Old Pascua Community Land Acquisition Act signed by the president is a “bipartisan bill that will raise the tribal standard of living, improve system coordination and integration of service delivery, and promote the ongoing transmission of Yaqui knowledge, culture, history, and traditions for future generations.”

Passing the law meant the 40 acres of land where the movie theater sat became sovereign land, said Tuscon Mayor Regina Romero.

“This land has significant cultural and historic ties to the Pascua Yaqui people, and the Pascua Yaqui people should decide what happens here. … It’s taken a long time to get to this point today.”

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe purchased the theater in 2011. The tribe has overcome many hurdles since then, Yucupicio said.

“We want people to come here to earn some money and win some money.”

The tribal chairman said the new casino will employ at least 800 people while improving the financial health of tribe members. 

Photo by Shutterstock
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Aleeyah Jadavji

Aleeyah hails from Toronto, Ontario, and has worked predominantly in the poker industry since 2015. From writing to interviewing big winners and live reporting on poker's biggest stages, she's seen it all. Aleeyah loves to cook and create content to showcase her passion for food and travel. She also loves sriracha and doesn't trust anyone who believes it's not a top-tier condiment.

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