(Photo) The final beam, bearing the Oklahoma, United States, and Choctaw Nation flags, nears its place in the framework of the Choctaw Nation’s new headquarters.
DURANT – Choctaw Nation is making history in Durant that will impact the area for many years to come. Beautiful new architecture is on the rise, and the skyline of Durant is changing as the epicenter of the Choctaw Nation reaches another milestone.
The latest step in this important venture by the Choctaw Nation took place Friday, Nov. 18, when at 1:58 p.m. the top beam was bolted into place on the new Choctaw Nation Headquarters. Applause and cheers from more than 300 people carried across the construction site.
The Topping Out ceremony has traditional roots in development. The final beam of the steel structure is painted white and signed – in this case, by those attending the ceremony and by employees at the existing headquarters – then hoisted up by a large crane and set into place. One part of the tradition many find curious is that a small evergreen tree sits on the beam. This tree signifies good fortune and close ties between the builders and inhabitants of the new building. The beam is the final piece in the structural puzzle of the five-story, 500,000-square-foot facility.
“I am so excited,” Chief Gary Batton said about the smooth delivery of services that will be available to tribal members. “We will be providing our employees a great place to work which highlights our culture and history. My hope is that this facility makes our tribal members and staff proud of how far the Choctaw Nation has come since our people endured the Trail of Tears, and how blessed a Nation we are!”
Currently located at 529 N. 16th Ave., the Choctaw Nation Headquarters houses more than 400 employees in a former Presbyterian College for Women. Choctaw Nations added more buildings and additional office space leased as staffing has grown.
Chief Batton pointed out there will be parking in front of the facility, and his and Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr.’s offices will be on the ground floor to provide easy access for tribal members.
“The new Choctaw Nation Headquarters is a model of efficiency that will feature state-of-the-art technology and collaborative work spaces to unify the 1,500 employees who will be relocating from more than 30 buildings throughout Durant,” explained T.R. Kanuch, Senior Executive Officer, Division of Commerce who oversees construction. “As an anchor in our master-planned campus, the new headquarters will showcase the artistry and values of our Choctaw culture throughout the grounds and interior of the building with native plants, artwork and architectural elements including the Choctaw stickball sticks and the diamond pattern.”
Ron Abney, Executive Director of Construction and Facilities, Division of Commerce for the Choctaw Nation explains that the features outdoor will include a lake with an amphitheater, a bridge connecting the headquarters to the Choctaw Regional Medical Clinic, and a lighted walking trail. In addition to ample open parking, there will be a 765-space parking garage.
Choctaw seniors from across southeast Oklahoma were in attendance.
“When finished it will be great,” said Shirley Cloud, 78, of Crowder.
Another senior from Crowder, Juanita Barker, said, “This will be so much better for everybody.”
“I can’t wait to use it,” said Gladys Daniel, 67, of Lula. “It’s a very exciting time to be Choctaw.”
Well-known Choctaw artist Jane Semple Umsted, who has furnished artwork for the new clinic, also was in attendance. “You don’t know until you are up close how massive this is. The size and scope. This whole area, it’s like a beautiful city.”
Travelers through the area, just north of the Choctaw Casino, will notice daily changes happening as they make progress. Construction on the new headquarters is expected to be complete by the end of 2017.