Government & Politics  May 31, 2024

Polis signs bill that facilitates Stanley Hotel sale’

ESTES PARK — A newly passed Colorado law that helps to facilitate the sale of the iconic Stanley Hotel was signed into law this week by Gov. Jared Polis. 

The Creative Industry Community Revitalization Incentives legislation, House Bill 1295, in part, helps to pave the way for the Colorado Educational and Cultural Facilities Authority to step in and facilitate a plan to buy Stanley Hotel — the 116-year-old, 140-room lodge that inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining” novel — from long-time owner Grand Heritage Hotel Group and see a long-languishing film center at the iconic Estes Park lodge completed.

“Supporting our creative industries like film will strengthen our local economy, enhance tourism, and solidify Colorado as the best state to visit and work in. This bill will help bring film makers to the many community gems in Colorado, just like the Stanley Hotel here in Estes Park,” Polis said in a prepared statement. 

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The sale, according to state officials, would unlock millions of public dollars needed to expand the hotel and build out 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.

Arizona-based Community Finance Corp., a nonprofit group that specializes in forming public-private partnerships that provide alternatives to the traditional funding schemes governments often use to pay for capital improvements and infrastructure projects, was previously in line to buy the Stanley — through a fairly complex financing mechanism — from Grand Heritage by way of a $475 million bond issuance from CECFA.

That deal apparently fell through this spring — the parties involved have been mum about the circumstances — and a new deal structure was created that allows CECFA to serve as both bond issuer and near-term owner of the Stanley.

If the Colorado Educational and Cultural Facilities Authority’s new plan comes to fruition, the state will own the Stanley upon repayment of the bonds — still expected to total more than $400 million — and revenues from the property will flow back into the coffers at CECFA, which, according to its website, “is the official state issuer of tax-exempt bonds for capital projects furthering the missions of educational and cultural organizations.”

The passage and signing on HB-1295 allows CECFA to expand its operational mandate to include certain new functions it would take on as the owner of the Stanley. While the legislation was a necessary step in the sale process, the deal has not yet been consummated.

“We continue to work on the transaction.” CECFA executive director Mark Heller told BizWest in an email this week. He did not provide a timeline for when the deal could close. 

This rendering shows how the film center and museum will blend with the existing, historic Stanley Hotel. Courtesy Stanley Hotel.

State officials and Grand Heritage Hotel Group owner John Cullen, whose company is expected to continue operating the hotel upon the state’s acquisition, have said repeatedly in recent months that a sale of the Stanley is necessary to fund important improvements such as the completion of The Stanley Film Center.

The estimated $70 million dollar effort 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.  

Once complete, the Stanley Film Center will be “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), 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,” according to a state documents. 

Blumhouse Productions LLC, the juggernaut production company behind horror films and franchises such as Get Out, Five Nights at Freddy’s, The Purge and Paranormal Activity, will serve as the film center’s exclusive exhibit curator.

The bond issuance and sale of the Stanley property to the state “is intended to facilitate the up to $46,399,582 in state sales tax increment financing over 30 years approved by the EDC under the Regional Tourism Act” to help get the Stanley improvement projects across the finish line, an OEDIT spokesperson told BizWest in an April email. Improvements at the hotel will boost Colorado’s profile within entertainment industry circles, state and Stanley officials have said, and hopefully draw more events such as the Sundance Institute’s Directors Lab, which came to the Stanley this month, marking the first time a venue other than the Sundance Resort in Utah has hosted the lab.

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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