Hualapai Tribal Nation exercises eminent domain to take Grand Canyon Skywalk

The Hualapai Tribal Nation has voted to exercise its power of eminent domain, or condemnation, to take over ownership of the Grand Canyon Skywalk from David Jin, the tourist attraction’s Las Vegas-based developer.

Jin partnered with the Hualapai Tribe to build the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass bridge that suspends visitors 4,000 feet above the canyon’s floor. The destination opened in 2007 and draws about 300,000 visitors a year.  It is located on the Tribe's reservation.

But the two parties have been at odds over the contract and revenue sharing. The tribe also contends Jin has not fulfilled his contractual obligation to complete a visitor center for tourists to pass through to access the Skywalk.

Jin and the tribe signed an agreement that they would split revenues for 25 years in exchange for Jin’s $30 million investment. Jin collected part of his dues in 2007, he says, although the tribe failed to provide accounting to back up the payment.

On February 7, 2012, the tribal council voted to exercise eminent domain over the management contract and compensate Jin with $11 million—roughly one-tenth of what Jin alleges is fair market value for his initial $30 million investment.

According to Jin’s attorney, Mark Tratos, the tribe’s move is a desperate attempt to hide the drastic decline in ticket sales on the tribe’s watch and prevent paying Jin the millions of dollars in management fees owed to him.

“They want all decisions to be made by tribal judges that they hire, fire and pay, and have resisted all efforts to have an independent judge or arbiter fairly review the facts,” Tratos said. “Mr. Jin has been their partner for more than 20 years, and his counsel asserts the tribe has awarded themselves this draconian power to strip Mr. Jin’s company of its constitutional rights.”

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