The former Parkway Plaza Hotel and Convention Center near downtown Casper will reopen this summer as the Clarion Inn at Platte River, according to a Thursday announcement.
Maryland-based Choice Hotels and Georgia-based CUSA LLC will coordinate to reopen the building. CUSA LLC President Deborah L. Cannon said there isn’t a firm open date, but they expect to be open by July or August of this year.
The Casper area is home to five other Choice properties, according to the company’s website: Quality Inn & Suites on North Poplar, Rodeway Inn on Southeast Wyoming Boulevard, Mainstay Suites on Granite Peak Drive, Comfort Inn in Evansville and Sleep Inn & Suites in Evansville.
The Clarion Inn at Platte River will offer 198 rooms and 42,000 square feet of conference and banquet space, according to the press release.
The hotel’s opening will also include the reopening of Old Town Putt Putt Golf, hotel general manager Tabitha Overgard said.
The Parkway, which long served as the city’s convention center, closed last fall for renovations and has changed hands a number of times over the last decade.
Casper businessman Pat Sweeney sold the Parkway to a Texas-based company in 2008, but after that firm failed to meet certain conditions, Sweeney took control of the property again. In 2015 he sold the hotel to CRU Casper, which was owned by a California-based real estate company.
The hotel had a few tumultuous years under CRU Casper. In April 2017, the city struck a deal with the hotel to help rebuild infrastructure around the Parkway in support of a planned 40,000 square foot conference center in the hotel’s southwest parking lot, but that deal fell through when hotel management missed a deadline.
In November 2017, two employees said the hotel had been writing bad checks and ordering workers to illegally buy liquor from retail stores using a company credit card. Wyoming law requires licensed outlets like hotels to buy booze through state-approved wholesale liquor distributors.
Finally, after CRU Casper defaulted on its mortgage, GreenLake purchased the building for $15.5 million on Dec. 6 as the lone bidder at a public foreclosure auction.
Casper City Manager Carter Napier said he thinks community members might be wary of the hotel reopening, given the lack of follow-through it saw under the previous owner.
“When you have that revolving door of owners on a property so prominently located in the community, that’s concerning,” he said. “It’s right at the gateway of our community; it’s got to be a jewel.”
He said he has no reason to believe the new owners won’t live up to those expectations. The new owners are hoping to make it clear they intend to exceed them.
“We want to be an excellent community partner,” Cannon said. “We’re working with the visitors bureau to make sure we’re doing what we need to do to enhance what they’re already doing.”
As part of that new image, the Clarion Inn at Platte River has undergone extensive renovations, including the overhaul of the building’s heating and air, rooms, convention space, kitchen and more.
Cannon said the hope is that, through corporate and city relationships, they will be able to attract more groups to the convention space. She said they are already in discussions with a number of large organizations.
She declined to name which groups but said they fall into every category from business to government.
As for the renovations, she said she doesn’t see any reason they won’t be finished by mid-summer, when they expect to be open for business.
“The hotel will open totally done and ready to go,” she said.
Liz Becher, community development director for the City of Casper, said her department’s building and code inspectors have been pleased with the communication from the new ownership.
“They started getting everything up to code in December,” soon after the building was sold at a public auction, she said. She added that the process is winding down and she predicts everything will be up to code in time for the new owners to meet their predicted timeline.
To staff the hotel, Overgard said the company will hold a hiring fair at the end of May.
When Parkway closed for renovations in November, 50 employees were laid off. Overgard said those employees are welcome to reapply. When asked if former employees would be given priority in the hiring process, she said she did not see why not. A date has not been set for the hiring fair, she said.
While the hotel provides convention space, Napier said he still believes the city would benefit from an entirely new facility, like the $55 million one being built in Cheyenne.
“I would think there’s enough to go around,” he said. “Casper is open for business.”
He said he doesn’t know of any concrete plans so far to bring such a facility to the city, however.