Casper officials aren’t giving up hope that a large-scale hotel and convention center might one day come to the Oil City.
A private developer recently announced plans to build such a facility south of Cheyenne — but Casper City Manager Carter Napier said Thursday that he believes the state could easily sustain multiple conference centers.
“I don’t think that conversation is ending here,” he said. “I think there is still a lot of interest locally to get a facility of that nature in Casper, particularly with the closure of the Parkway.”
Casper’s Parkway Plaza, often used as a conference center, closed for renovations Oct. 31 and was sold in a December foreclosure auction.
As for whether Casper’s tourism will take a hit after the new hotel opens in Cheyenne; Napier said he doesn’t think that’s a likely outcome.
“We have good relationships with all the associations that bring events to Casper,” he said. “We provide them with a good product and it would be surprising to me if they switched (locations).”
The private developer, 307 Land Development LLC, announced earlier this month that the $55 million project is slated to open in 2021 and will include an events center, restaurant and entertainment complex.
The facility will be a welcome addition, according to Jill Pope, the director of operations for Visit Cheyenne.
“There is a need for more full-service properties,” she previously said. “… A lot of our other hotels have great rooms and nice continental breakfasts and some meeting rooms for smaller groups, but when you are checking in larger groups or conventions, they need more space.”
Brook Kaufman, the CEO of Visit Casper, said Thursday that she is excited for their counterparts in Cheyenne.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the Cheyenne community,” she said.
Like the city manager, Kaufman said she’s still hopeful that a private developer will one day decide to built a hotel and conference center in Casper.
“We just have to stay focused on our own background and work hard to continue the conversation here,” she said.
Although many Casper officials believe that a large-scale hotel would increase tourism and foot traffic to local businesses, others have worried that it could be harmful to the community.
Kaufman addressed these concerns at a Casper City Council work session this summer.
“Would a conference center induce demand or would it shift demand? Kauffman asked. “Is it going to steal business from Ramkota, Ramada and Parkway or is it going to bring new business to Casper? We invested a huge chunk of money on a study and the good news is it does induce demand.”
In 2017, Kaufman was a member of a conference center consortium that urged Casper’s leaders not to sell three city-owned downtown properties. The group said the land in question was the best spot to potentially develop a large-scale hotel.
The consortium also included representatives from the Downtown Development Authority, the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board and the Economic Development Joint Powers Board/Forward Casper.
After a three-hour public hearing, the Council ultimately voted to sell the properties to local entrepreneurs. Many community members said at the time that they feared a large-scale conference center would harm the city’s core by dramatically increasing traffic, negatively altering the landscape and taking away needed business from other hotels.