The Puyallup Tribe and Kenmore Air announce partnership to bring seaplane operations to Tribal lands, Tacoma

PUYALLUP RESERVATION, Tacoma, Wash.—The Puyallup Tribe and Kenmore Air are partnering to bring seaplane operations to South Puget Sound.

“No other Tribe in our country has an operation like this,” said the Puyallup Tribal Council, the Tribe’s governing body. “With Kenmore Air, we’re opening up Tacoma to the Northwest and the Northwest to Tacoma.”

“We are honored to work with the Puyallup Tribe and thrilled to bring seaplane service to the homelands of the Puyallup people and to South Puget Sound,” said Todd Banks, president of Kenmore Air.

The partners will build a new dock and terminal on property the Tribe recently purchased along Ruston Way in Tacoma. The Ram, a popular waterfront restaurant, has continued to operate on the site since the Tribe’s purchase, and the Tribe recently announced that a second building on the property will be renovated to house a new Native / internationally inspired restaurant by world-renowned Chef Roy Yamaguchi. Both the new restaurant and seaplane terminal are on target to begin operations in late 2023.

The new terminal will open rapid travel to and from many of the state’s most desired visitor and hospitality locations. Initial routes will be to Victoria, B.C., and the San Juan Islands. Sightseeing and other charter services will also be available from Tacoma. There are plans to wrap a seaplane with the Tribe’s and Emerald Queen Casino’s logos. One plane will be in service the first year, and potentially more will be added as the operation grows and routes expand.

The new service also opens the Tribe’s casinos and hospitality venues to international visitors from British Columbia and beyond. In May 2020, the Tribe opened its new $400 million Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma and after a delay due to COVID-19, opened its adjacent 155-room luxury hotel in December 2021. Most recently, the Tribe inaugurated sports betting at both of its casinos through a partnership with BetMGM.

The Puyallup Tribe is a sovereign nation of more than 5,000 Members and one of the largest employers in Pierce County. This partnership makes it the only Tribe in the United States to bring seaplane services into its economic portfolio. With 25 aircraft in operation, 52 pilots on staff and more than 250 employees in peak season, Kenmore Air is among the best-known and most respected seaplane operators in the world. It recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.

The venture includes more than seaplane operations. The partners have agreed to work together to create an aviation job training program for interested Puyallup Tribal Members.

“This will create opportunities for our young people to engage in all aspects of seaplane operations including flight training, aircraft maintenance and terminal operations,” Tribal Council said.