Hospitality & Tourism  December 20, 2023

Stanley Hotel sale could spur significant expansion, film center completion

ESTES PARK — The impending sale of the Stanley Hotel, which has etched its foreboding silhouette into movie, literature and horror genre history as the inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining” novel, could help facilitate a major expansion that aims to boost the iconic Estes Park lodge’s guest room total by more than 40%.

In addition to funding the completion of the long-awaited Stanley Film Center, the sale by long-time owner Grand Heritage Hotel Group to Arizona-based nonprofit Community Finance Corp., is expected to allow the 116-year-old, 140-room Stanley to add “a three-story expansion, consisting of approximately 86,000 square feet and approximately 58 additional guest rooms, to be connected to and be a part of the main hotel building,” according to a document from Colorado Educational and Cultural Facilities Authority, a government body involved in the somewhat unorthodox financing model the buyer and seller are using for the sale. 

The acquisition by CFC, expected to close in about two months, will help spur the “construction and equipping of The Stanley Film Center, consisting of a two-story building with approximately 64,735 square feet, to include an approximately 864-seat outdoor amphitheater with a fire capacity of 1,200 including (standing room-only capacity), an event center, a film museum, a sound stage, and related amenities, to be constructed adjacent to the main hotel building and connected to the concert Hall,” the CECFA document 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 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. 

Grand Heritage Hotel Group owner John Cullen told the Estes Park Trail Gazette this week that his company has secured a 25-year agreement with CFC to manage and operate the Stanley, which is perched near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Cullen, who has owned the property for 28 years, does not anticipate that any staffing changes will be necessary after the Stanley’s new owners take over. 

Community Finance Corp. will take ownership of the Stanley by way of a $475 million bond issuance from CECFA.

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.”

Cullen, during an update report he provided to the Colorado Economic Development Commission last week, “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 last week 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.”

Before the sale closes, CECFA, which collected public comment on the proposed Stanley deal on Monday, must make a “determination that the structure of and parties to the transaction will lessen the burdens of government,” CECFA executive director Mark Heller said in an email Tuesday. That determination is expected to occur in late January. 

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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