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Council Approves Conference Center Site Lease Agreement

Anthony Pollreisz, K2 Radio

Casper City Council gave formal approval Tuesday to a pass-through lease agreement that will likely lead to the development and construction of a conference center on a former Amoco refinery site west of Casper’s downtown Old Yellowstone District.

The agreement was passed 8-1 on Tuesday. Ward I councilman Keith Goodenough provided the lone dissenting vote.

Under the deal, the city will spend almost $5.1 million to lease the 18-acre portion of land bordering the North Platte River from the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board. The city will then sublease that same property to a private developer.

“We see the conference center as a great step in our primary mission of economic development,” Joint Powers Board chairperson Scott Sissman told council prior to Tuesday’s vote. “It will increase the value of the land on the commons by its very presence there.”

Sissman said, with increased property value, lease values on the Amoco-Platte River Commons will also increase. Sissman said, with the additional money, the Joint Powers Board can find another avenue to subsidize operations at the Three Crowns Golf Club, which loses several hundred thousand dollars annually.

“It’s like the anchor store of a mall – without the anchor store, the mall has a hard time drawing customers,” Sissman said, further elaborating that the presence of the conference center will directly increase visitation to Three Crowns.

Annual $300,000 payments from British Petroleum, which merged with Amoco in 1998, stopped in 2013. The Joint Powers Board had been using a portion of that money to defray the annual loss at Three Crowns.

The Joint Powers Board will also provide a $6 million loan to the complex developer.

“The hotel and conference center owner and developer is on the hook for his hotel, for repayment of the $6 million loan to the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board, as well as leasing the 18 acres of property to the city of Casper,” Richie Bratton, a representative of the Joint Powers Board-hired real estate developer Refined Properties, said on Tuesday.

“There are zero public dollars that are going to be spent and lost,” Bratton added.

In February, a roughly $2.6 million loan package was approved by the State Loan and Investment Board for infrastructure and land improvements on the property. Bratton said he isn’t sure yet whether the Joint Powers Board will use that money.

The city is hoping the deal will spur development of a roughly $40 million dollar complex that would include a 200-room Crowne Plaza-branded deluxe hotel and spa, the largest conference center in Wyoming, and, possibly, a civic auditorium. The roughly $5.1 million that the city is using to lease the land from the Joint Powers Board was initially set aside for a civic auditorium years ago.

“This is a game-changer,” Casper city manager John Patterson said on June 11. “It will bring jobs, it will bring tax base, and it will bring economic prosperity to the city.”

Patterson said he hopes the project can be completed by 2016. The agreement, which council gave its preliminary approval to on June 11, must also be approved by British Petroleum.

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