Casper City Council Cold To Future Conference Center Proposals
The City of Casper faces some tough decisions about how to cut costs, raise revenues, provide services and not lay off employees.
One decision that's not so tough will be dealing with any future proposals to provide infrastructure for a conference center and hotel complex.
"My sense right now is that it might be challenging for the council to really consider an investment at this point," Mayor Kenyne Humphrey said after the city council's work session Tuesday.
"We're trying to be very conservative, and spend those dollars wisely, but I'm not sure what's coming down in the future, either," Humphrey said.
In other words, probably no.
During the work session, council heard a report of the chronology of efforts to bring a conference center in the past 11 years:
2006 -- A proposal to build a hotel and convention center on a 16.5-acre site next to the Casper Events Center. The developer wanted the city to donate the land. The project failed because state law prohibited the city from donating land.
April 2011 -- The city identified the development of a conference center as a top strategic goal. The city received numerous proposals to build it, along with requests for a five-year operating subsidy of $500,000, and a 93-year land lease. All proposals were rejected because of the large public investment contingencies.
September 2011 -- A consultant recommended a building with, among other things, a 13,000-square-foot ballroom with seating for 1,200-2,000 people, and partnering with a flagship hotel brand. The project required a $17 million public investment. Council adopted the study in February 2012.
December 2011 -- The city accepted proposals for a downtown strategic plan for the design and land use for five sites in downtown and the Old Yellowstone District. The city would have committed infrastructure improvements of $10.8 million. Council did not formally adopt the plan in part because of public concerns about some of the proposed land uses.
July 2012 -- The city proposed to build a $12 million conference center, while a developer would build, operate and manage the hotel on the seven-acre site of the former Plains and Goodstein blocks owned by the state. Land acquisition was estimated at $5.5 million. In March 2013, the project failed because the city was unable to negotiate the purchase of state property.
2014-2015 -- The Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board started a private development initiative for a hotel-conference center on 17 acres of Platte River Commons. The city would have committed up to $5 million for infrastructure, or it would have bought the land with a perpetual lease to the developer. State law prevented the city from entering the land option. The project closed in the spring of 2016.
July 2016 -- The city entered an agreement with Parkway Plaza owner CRU Casper, LLC, to develop the hotel into a conference center and resort. The city would have committed up to $5 million infrastructure. CRU Casper did not fulfill its terms of the MOU and the project failed in December 2016.