Hospitality & Tourism  December 15, 2023

Iconic Stanley Hotel to sell to Arizona nonprofit

$475M in bonds will fund sale, Film Center, improvements

ESTES PARK — The longtime owner of the iconic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park said this week that the lodge that inspired Stephen King’s classic horror novel “The Shining” will soon be sold to an Arizona nonprofit organization, a move that’s expected to facilitate the completion of an onsite film center and other improvements. 

“My 28 years of ownership ends with a countdown clock” to early February, said John Cullen of his nearly three-decade tenure as lead caretaker of the hotel.

Cullen, speaking to members of the Colorado Economic Development Commission, said that his Grand Heritage Hotel Group, through a series of fairly complex financial machinations, expects to hand over ownership of the Stanley in about two months to the Community Finance Corp., a nonprofit group that specializes in forming public-private partnerships that provide alternatives to the traditional funding mechanisms governments often use to pay for capital improvements and infrastructure projects.

In this instance, CFC’s acquisition is expected to facilitate completion of the long-anticipated Stanley Film Center as well as other upgrades to the famous (perhaps infamous) 140-room, 116-year-old lodge.

“It has been a monumental task requiring an incredible number of people in multiple countries, but I think we’re going to pull all of this off,” Cullen said. “… We don’t see any barriers to closing around the end of the first week of February.”

The particulars of the transaction remain somewhat opaque. Cullen, state economic officials and Colorado Department of Economic Development and International Trade spent about a half-hour discussing the deal in a private executive session during Thursday’s meeting. 

“As part of the Stanley Film Center’s semi-annual update to the Colorado Economic Development Commission, owner John Cullen shared that the entire Stanley property and its revenues will be used as collateral and repayment for the issuance of a bond by the Colorado Educational and Cultural Facilities Authority,” an OEDIT spokesperson told BizWest in an email. “The proceeds of the bond will be used by the Arizona-based nonprofit Community Finance Corporation to purchase the property, retire existing debt, fund the construction of the Stanley Film Center buildings, which is the Regional Tourism Act project, and provide upgrades to modernize the property and support increased visitation over time.”

The CECFA “is the official state issuer of tax-exempt bonds for capital projects furthering the missions of educational and cultural organizations,” according to the authority’s website. “… CECFA helps educational and cultural nonprofits borrow money for capital projects at lower interest rates than they could obtain through traditional bank financing.”

Public hearing set

The Colorado Educational and Cultural Facilities Authority has a public hearing set for Dec. 19 during which its leaders will discuss a bond issuance of up to $475 million to facilitate the hotel sale. 

It is not immediately clear from the publicly available documents or testimony what Grand Heritage Hotel Group, representatives of which could not be reached after Thursday’s EDC meeting, stands to gain financially from the deal or what role, if any, the company could play in ongoing operations management at the Stanley.  In fact, BizWest has yet to learn how the Stanley will be run post-sale and by whom. CFC representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

CFC-EP LLC, an entity controlled by Community Finance Corp., would be required to use proceeds from the bond sale “to renovate a portion of the existing facilities (at the Stanley) and to construct certain additional educational and cultural facilities to be located on the facilities site, such additional facilities to include an event center and other facilities required and useful to the operation of such event center and the existing facilities,” according to a CECFA notice for next week’s hearing. 

This financing mechanism was similar to the one used to help build the Heller Center for Arts & Humanities at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, OEDIT deputy director Jeff Kraft told state officials at this week’s EDC meeting. 

In addition to funding for the completion of the film center on-site at the hotel, which sits at the entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park, there “would be some other proceeds available for some other important uses around the property,” Kraft said. 

The Stanley Film Center — which, according to its website “will be the permanent home for film, fun and the horror genre” and will highlight the key role that Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” film adaption has played in horror history — is a $40 million project that began in 2015 with a jumpstart in the form of millions of dollars in state tourism tax incentives. 

Development of the 80,000-square-foot museum and interactive film center, which has received several more public financing boosts over the years, has been hampered by construction delays, cost increases and the COVID-19 pandemic, which essentially shut down the hospitality industry for several months in 2020. 

The acquisition deal and its associated bond financing will help get the project over the finish line, hotel and state officials said. 

“This is obviously an incredible opportunity for Colorado and beyond,” Colorado Economic Development Commission member Walker Stapleton said. 

This is a developing story that will be updated as BizWest learns more about the upcoming transaction and its impacts on operations at the Stanley Hotel.

ESTES PARK — The longtime owner of the iconic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park said this week that the lodge that inspired Stephen King’s classic horror novel “The Shining” will soon be sold to an Arizona nonprofit organization, a move that’s expected to facilitate the completion of an onsite film center and other improvements. 

“My 28 years of ownership ends with a countdown clock” to early February, said John Cullen of his nearly three-decade tenure as lead caretaker of the hotel.

Cullen, speaking to members of the Colorado Economic Development Commission, said that his Grand Heritage Hotel Group, through a series of…

Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
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