Las Vegas Sun

April 24, 2014

Historic Boulder Dam Hotel out of money, shutting down

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Mona Sheild Payne / Special to the Sun

The historic Boulder Dam Hotel, a part of Boulder City since 1933, is out of money and will close Saturday until further notice. The hotel needs to raise $250,000 to reopen.

Boulder Dam Hotel

The Treasured Times Tearoom is one of the rooms refurbished in the Boulder Dam Hotel under the supervision of manager Roger Shoaff. The tearoom, one of the amenities and sources of revenue at the hotel, offers tea by reservation only. Launch slideshow »

Boulder Dam Hotel

Beyond the Sun

The historic Boulder Dam Hotel, which since 1933 has been home to celebrities, royalty and bums, will close Saturday until further notice.

The board of the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association, which owns the hotel, restaurant and Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum at the site, voted Wednesday night to close the operation because it has run out of money.

At the same meeting, board President Bill Ferrence resigned effective Saturday. Ferrence is also manager of the Boulder Dam Credit Union, which holds two mortgages on the hotel of $940,000.

The hotel opened in 1933, while Hoover Dam was still under construction.

During its heyday in the 1930s and ’40s, it hosted Shirley Temple, the Maharajah of Indore, India, and Cornelius Vanderbilt and his new bride.

In the 1970s, after decades of neglect, it became a flophouse, then had several owners try but fail to restore it.

The Boulder Dam Hotel Association was formed in 1993 to raise money to renovate the hotel, which reopened in 2003. The historical association became sole owner in 2005.

The board, in a statement, said if it is able to raise $250,000 by Sept. 10, it will be able to reopen the hotel.

The decision to close came after the historical association failed in an appeal to the city’s Redevelopment Agency on Monday for a $135,000 cash infusion that would have kept the hotel, restaurant and museum afloat through next June. The measure, which was changed to a $40,000 loan to start, failed on a 2-2 vote of the City Council, which doubles as the RDA board.

Mayor Roger Tobler and Councilman Cam Walker supported the measure. Councilman Travis Chandler and Councilwoman Linda Strickland opposed it.

Councilman Duncan McCoy, who supported the plan, was advised to abstain because of his past involvement as a member of the association’s board.

The board statement said that because of lost revenue from bookings that would have to be canceled, the cost of reopening will be greater than that of keeping the hotel open.

The hotel’s 23 employees will be laid off after their shifts Saturday, which is the end of a pay period, new President Darryl Martin said.

Roseanne Shoaff, who manages the hotel with her husband, Roger, will stay on at a reduced rate to help close the books, Martin said. The Shoaffs, who live in an apartment at the hotel, will have to move, he said.

The Boulder City Art Guild Gallery and other stores and tenants in the hotel will be given 30 days to move, he said. The hotel building will remain open to allow customers access to those businesses.

No hotel guests were booked for Saturday night, said board member Val Olsen, who is an employee of the Boulder City News. The museum’s archive, which is kept in the basement, will stay there for now.

Former museum curator Dennis McBride, who now is a collections specialist for the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas, spoke to the board before its decision, offering the state museum’s resources and help.

He noted that the state museum is moving into a new, 78,000-square-foot building.

“If you are looking for direct gifts, nobody has any money,” McBride said. “But we still have resources you do not. It will take creative thought and effort on both sides.”

The association board will meet next week to begin discussing what to do with the archive, Martin said.

The board plans to apply to the Credit Union for a loan modification, he said. He noted the difficulty of Ferrence’s position as manager of the Credit Union holding the hotel’s loans, which prompted his resignation.

“Bill Ferrence has worked so hard to get the hotel where it is headed. He and his wife, Cheryl, have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it,” he said.

Olsen and fellow board member Bret Runion, who provided the board’s statement to the media, said the board would appeal to the community to keep the hotel open.

“We know from past experience that the people of Boulder City have stepped up,” Runion said. “We have put out an image of success for so long, it appeared we were doing so well that we didn’t need help.”

They noted that the hotel was purchased and renovated primarily to house the museum and archive, which had previously occupied the back of a store.

“We’ve invested $3 million in this structure,” Runion said. “The community has stepped up in the past and will continue to do so.”

CORRECTION: This story was updated to reflect the proposed RDA assistance. | (July 9, 2009)

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