Mashantucket - Open for weeks without fanfare, the new Pequot Outpost gas station next to Foxwoods Resort Casino has had an effect on prices along the Route 2 corridor, driving a gallon of regular down to $3.66 a gallon.
On Thursday, there was fanfare.
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe celebrated the grand opening of the $6.5 million facility - which includes a convenience store and a Burger King drive-through restaurant - with blessings, speeches, appearances by New England Patriots cheerleaders, a live remote radio broadcast and drawings for Outpost vouchers.
Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler hailed the project as "another step forward" in the casino-owning tribe's efforts to remain self-reliant while diversifying its business portfolio.
"With 30,000 people a day driving to Foxwoods, there's a lot of gas to be sold," he said.
The idea for a tribally owned and operated gas station originated years ago with then-tribal Councilor Richard F. Sebastian, an elder tribal member who died Tuesday. Sebastian, a former chairman of the tribal council's Economic Development Committee, was one of the first tribal leaders to urge that the Mashantuckets pursue business interests beyond gaming, Butler said.
Tribal elder Laughing Woman, who led the gathering in prayer, called for a moment of silence in Sebastian's memory.
Cinque Dames and Jeff Hayward, members of the Tribal Business Advisory Board, oversaw the Pequot Outpost project, which was completed in about eight months. Keith Gove, a tribal administrator, was credited with bringing it in well under budget.
Dames said the tribe has hired 67 new employees to staff the facility, including five full-timers. About a quarter of the new hires are tribal members, he said.
The tribe had said that the 24-hour Outpost would pump Mobil gas at "competitive" prices. When it opened several weeks ago, Hayward said, its prices were several cents a gallon below those at nearby gas stations. Since then, other stations have lowered their prices, he said.
At a Shell station down Route 2 from Foxwoods, the cash price of regular Thursday was the same as at the Outpost - $3.66 a gallon. The credit price was $3.72, slightly less than the Outpost's credit price, $3.76. About a mile farther south on Route 2, a Mobil station was selling regular at $3.72 cash and $3.78 credit.
Tribal members as well as non-tribal employees of Foxwoods and the tribe's government are entitled to a discount of 10 cents a gallon on Outpost gas. Casino patrons who have a Foxwoods Rewards card can swipe their card to pay, with 1.5 points equal to $1 of gas.
Editor's note: This version corrects an earlier version.