Mille Lacs Band checks into downtown St. Paul, plans upgrades at 2 hotels

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The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe confirmed Monday it has finished buying two of the largest hotels in St. Paul, the Star Tribune reports. The band acquired the Crowne Plaza Riverfront and the DoubleTree by Hilton hotels.

Finance & Commerce says the band paid $37 million for the deal -- which includes nearly half of the hotel rooms in the downtown area.

The new owners plan to make significant improvements by renovating rooms, upgrading street entrances and adding new destination restaurants, according to the Pioneer Press. Rebranding the hotels is also a possibility.

“We intend to be good business people, good neighbors and good citizens,” Melanie Benjamin, an executive with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, said at a news conference Monday, WCCO reports. “We do not want to change St. Paul, we want to be a part of St. Paul’s business community. We want to help St. Paul with its business and its economic goals, and we now share those goals.”

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Graves Hospitality Corp., which operates the Graves 601 in downtown Minneapolis, was hired to manage both properties -- which have more than 720 guest rooms combined.

Tribal leaders say the investment is part of a plan to create new revenue streams for the band beyond gambling, according to Minnesota Public Radio. The band is also looking at buying more hotel properties in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, San Antonio and near the Mall of America.

The Mille Lacs Band, best known for its Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley, first announced in January a potential deal to purchase two major hotels in St. Paul.

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