Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

 

The board that oversees the development of the former Amoco refinery will hear about the scope and costs of the proposed conference center next month, with construction beginning next year, its chairman said Wednesday.

"And the anticipation is we'd be breaking ground on the conference center next spring," Bryce Row said after the monthly meeting of the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board.

The projected cost for the conference center was $35 million in 2011, and that number probably has gone up, Row said.

In June, Casper City Council approved a pass-through lease agreement to spend almost $5.1 million to lease land bordering the North Platte River from the ARAJPB. The city will then sublease that same property to a private developer.

"Our lease agreement with the city has been finalized and executed," Row said. "Now we're moving forward and understanding our total project costs. The developer has gone back to the engineer and said let's get our numbers back in line because the older part was done in 2011."

Several sources would provide funding: a $6 million loan from the ARAJPB, the city of Casper with the land lease agreement, the county, the hotelier and the developer.

The government agencies would be paying for infrastructure and the conference center, but not the hotel itself, Row said. The developer and hotelier will shoulder all those costs, he said.

The size and scope of the center may change, too, Row said.

"I believe we're talking 220 rooms; the actual footprint size I'm not aware of at this time," he said. "It will comprise 17 acres total: the conference center, hotel, parking lot. It will be just here, on the southwest part of the property, right along the river."

Central Wyoming already has hotels that can accommodate hundreds of people, but it needs more than them, Row said.

"What we're missing right now is an all-inclusive conference center," he said. "The conference centers we have right now, they provide a service, they do a great job at what they do. But as far as taking in a large base, when it comes here for a convention of thousands of people, we don't have the facilities in town."

The ARAJPB was created in 1998 when Amoco — now BP — signed an agreement with the city of Casper and Natrona County to oversee the development of the property. The Casper City Council and the Natrona County Commission appoint the board members.

BP pledged more than $25 million toward the goal of replacing the number of jobs lost when the refinery shut down in 1991. The board receives no money from the city or the county.

The Platte River Commons is the home to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission building, the Casper Area Innovation Center, the Platte River Business Plaza, the Three Crowns Golf Course, and the new Wyoming Otolaryngology Clinic.