Three hotels may soon vie for downtown business


Three hotels may soon vie for downtown business

BOZEMAN, Mont. - It's big weekend for Bozeman folks from all corners of the state are headed here for not one, but two huge football games.

The Brawl of the Wild and the state AA high school championship has hotels packed across the city.

We called five of Bozeman's biggest hotels and came up with just 16 available rooms out of 647. However, this is a special weekend. What about any other day? We did some digging.
In March of this year, occupancy rates averaged right around 48 percent in the Bozeman Yellowstone area, compare that to August when it's close to 91 percent. In fact, from January to August, the occupancy rate in Bozeman and Yellowstone averaged 64 percent.

There is a push to build more hotels, particularly in downtown Bozeman. In fact, three are planned within about a block of each other in the city's core.

Folks with the City of Bozeman tell us development of a downtown hotel is one of their top priorities. Now, they could have three.

"It's exciting to think about the opportunities that are currently under review," says Bozeman Economic Development Director Brit Fontenot.

He's looked over all three plans, so we decided to see the plans for ourselves. According to ThinkTank Design's application, the New Imperial 400 renovations would create 38 rooms downtown in a 1960s era motor lodge.

The Etha Hotel is slated to go into the old Armory building on Mendenhall. Standing eight stories high, the boutique hotel will add another 102 rooms to the mix.

The Kenyon Noble site is practically kitty-corner to the Etha. Dubbed the Hotel at Block G for the time being, that hotel would create another 104 rooms.

We asked Fontenot whether he thought downtown could support three new hotels.

"Conceivably, there is room for all of these hotels because they're all reaching out to different customers and different price points," says Fontenot.

Though he says the city does not get involved in financial considerations of development, he says they do expect developers to do their homework.

"What we do expect is that math has been done in advance and these very smart developers wouldn't be making a multi-million dollar investment if there wasn't some return," explains Fontenot.

We sat down with Downtown Bozeman Partnership Executive Director Chris Naumann to get his take. While he says he doesn't have any hard data, he tells us he believes downtown can support the hotels and explains there's an even larger market to fill.

"Some folks choose something by the interstate, some other visitors will be looking for something different so, I think it's really a question of whether the entire town can bear that capacity," says Naumann.

Naumann says he thinks Bozeman is a popular enough destination that the hotel industry as a whole has room to grow.

Plans for the Etha have been approved. The New Imperial 400 has received preliminary approval and the Hotel on Block G has yet to get the green light.

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