Wind Creek

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians' Wind Creek Casino and Hotel north of Atmore, along Alabama 21. A proposal by the Creeks, since rejected by Gov. Robert Bentley, would have allowed the tribe to expand its gambling operations into northern Alabama.

ATMORE — Small towns being what they are, opportunities there for fame and fortune are few and far between. Once cemented, their reputations are hard to change.

Atmore offers proof.

Holman Correctional Facility, which houses Alabama’s death-row inmates and its execution chamber, sits just off Alabama 21 a few miles north of Atmore. The prison was built in 1969. For Alabamians with only a casual knowledge of this place, the prison — and its death row — is often the only thing people know about it.

That issue isn’t lost on Atmore residents.

Bed and breakfast owner Foster Kizer, who The Star profiled Tuesday, comes from a longtime Escambia County family. His business and home sits right on Alabama 21. Of Holman, he says, “That was what Atmore was known for. Now it’s the casino.”

“The casino” is the Wind Creek Casino and Hotel, another Alabama 21 landmark. The complex, operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, is now an overwhelming presence in Atmore and the surrounding region. The relationship between Wind Creek and Holman is striking — they sit about 2 miles from each other, just off Interstate 65. One inviting, the other certainly not.

“I don’t know if it bothers us. I think we’re glad it’s not the prison anymore (that defines us),” Kizer said. “But we want Atmore to be more than that.”

Revenue from the Poarch Creek tribe’s casinos in Alabama is making an impact in this part of the state. In March 2013, the tribe donated more than $2 million to schools in Escambia, Monroe and Baldwin counties in Alabama, as well as several schools in Escambia County, Fla.

— Phillip Tutor