Motels become oil worker housing solution

2014-05-01T18:00:00Z 2014-05-01T19:52:09Z Motels become oil worker housing solutionSHARON DUNN Greeley Tribune Casper Star-Tribune Online
May 01, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

GREELEY, Colo. — Every morning, the men of the oil field file out of their hotel and motel rooms in waves around the Greeley area, warming up their trucks and emptying parking lots.

The oil and gas drilling rush caught Greeley a little flat-footed in terms of rental housing. There hadn't been an apartment complex built in recent years. Now, hundreds are slated to go up in the coming years to meet the ever-increasing demand. Area hotels and motels have become the safety net.

"I think there's probably enough to go around at this point," said Renee von Weiland operations manager for Spirit Hospitality in Fort Collins, which owns two hotels in the Greeley area and one in Loveland, all with an influx of oil and gas workers keeping the numbers strong.

While builders work on putting up apartments at a breakneck pace, area hotels and motels are filling their rooms to the brim, two workers to a room, in many cases.

Some companies have had rotating crews at area hotels and motels for the past three years. Many of the workers are here from Wyoming or Oklahoma, or North Dakota, and still others have migrated here from the West Slope, where drilling has slowed with the downturn in gas drilling there.

It has set off another mini-boom of hotels, with three more already planned around Greeley, and one in downtown Greeley. Spirit Hospitality, which owns the Hampton Inn and Suites in south central Greeley, opened its extended-stay hotel, Candlewood Suites, in west Greeley last fall, and reports 50 percent to 60 percent of its business from the oil fields.

The men of the oil field have become a huge set of big brothers for the workers at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in downtown Greeley.

The companies that hire the men work to ensure good behavior by making good behavior a condition of employment.

The influx of workers has pretty much turned the hotel business model upside down, having for years dealt with the typical lean times in the winters and the influx of tourism in the summers.

More will come soon. Hotel developer David Amin has planned an 85-room Homewood Suites hotel in south Greeley. Construction is expected to begin soon, with the hotel opening in spring 2015.

Though occupancies are high, there are some expectations of the oil and gas business trailing off. Brewster said companies will go only so far in giving employees housing allowances.

"What's happening is a lot of companies are saying, 'You need to move; we won't put you up anymore.' We're seeing that influx go away. Those companies won't support that forever. They're making them move or commute. There's always going to be influx of new people. At some point, it'll be almost gone. At some point, it'll be so minimal you wouldn't even count it," he said.

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