JAY, Okla. – The quandary over a Grand Lake tourism attraction near Sail Boat Bridge was resolved after a Delaware County judge ordered the Seneca-Cayuga Nation to pay over $7 million to a Kansas couple.  

The tribe purchased the Cherokee Queen riverboats and Royal Bay Restaurant, Royal Bay Convention Center and Royal Bay Marina for $3.9 million, according to records filed on March 21, 2012, in the Delaware County Clerk’s office.

After the tribe failed to make a $200,000 loan payment to Larry and Carla Steckline, the couple filed a civil lawsuit in Delaware County District Court in Dec. 2022.

District Judge Jennifer McAffrey ruled on Sept. 28 that the tribe was in default and ordered the tribe to pay the Stecklines $7,080,942.34 as a final loan installment and late fees.

Repeated messages left for Chief Charles Diebold and the tribe’s communications department were not returned. The tribe did not indicate whether it would appeal the ruling.

“The tribe paid the debt until the (restaurant and other buildings) were put into trust. Once the buildings were in trust, they (Seneca Cayuga Nation) quit making the loan payments.” 

Larry Steckline

At issue were two separate pieces of property – the Cherokee Queen riverboats and a land tract that housed the restaurant, convention center and marina.

The restaurant and other buildings were put in trust by Seneca Cayuga Nation which prohibits Steckline from getting those properties back.

The land alongside SH 59 and the lakefront property where the Cherokee Queen riverboats are docked and the riverboats belong to the Stecklines.

Stekline said former chief LeRoy Howard orchestrated the deal.

“I would do business with (Chief) Howard tomorrow morning,” Steckline said, referring to his positive working relationship with the former Seneca Cayuga Nation chief.

Howard died in December 2020.  

Proceeds from a proposed casino at the site were expected to fund the rest of the note, said Daniel Gomez, Steckline’s attorney.

The loan stipulated that if the note was paid by the end of the third year after closing, the total purchase price would be $5,666,666.67, according to the petition. If paid at the end of nine years after closing, the total purchase price would be $8 million, this being the maximum possible price, court documents show. The promissory note was for $8 million to secure the maximum possible purchase price.

The tribe made timely installment payments for the first two and half years of the loan note totaling $1,091,557.66 but failed to make a $200,000 payment due March of 2015, and another $200,000 payment due September of 2015, court documents show.

The tribe failed to make 86 consecutive minimum payments of $100,000, representing the minimum monthly installments due for November 2015 through December 2022, according to the petition.

The three-story, 67-foot Cherokee Queen I, was built in 1945, and its smaller sister boat was popular with tourists and Grand Lake residents. Both boats which specialized in scenic cruises, parties and weddings on Grand Lake have been docked for years.

Steckline said he expects the riverboats to resume cruising Grand Lake in the spring of 2024.

Several blocks east of the Cherokee Queens are 30 undeveloped acres that were put in trust by Seneca Cayuga Nation in 2007 for gaming purposes.   

The land remains a grassy vacant lot.