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October 24, 2014

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City money could rescue historic Boulder Dam Hotel

Boulder City could dig into Redevelopment Agency coffers to help struggling downtown landmark

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

General Manager Roger Shoaff checks room availabilities on June 22 at the renovated Boulder Dam Hotel.

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 »

Map of Boulder Dam Hotel

Boulder Dam Hotel

1305 Arizona Street, Boulder City

Beyond the Sun

Boulder City’s Redevelopment Agency could become a white knight to rescue the historic Boulder Dam Hotel from possible closure.

The RDA board, made up of the five City Council members, next Monday will consider a request from the hotel for $135,000 to help with its debt service, freeing up hotel money to stay open through summer months made leaner than usual by the recession. The meeting begins at 3 p.m. at City Hall, 401 California Ave.

The hotel, built in 1933, hosted millionaires, movie stars and royalty during its heyday in the 1930s and ’40s, but fell into disrepair in the 1970s and ’80s as it changed hands many times.

A nonprofit group formed in 1993 raised $3 million to restore the hotel to its former glory. It is now operated by the nonprofit Boulder City Museum and Historical Association, which runs a museum on the mezzanine and stores its archives in the basement.

The hotel was on its way to becoming self-sustaining, said historical association President Bill Ferrence, who helped start the effort in 1993 to renovate the hotel. But the recession has hurt occupancy rates, and the hotel needs $60,000 just to pay its bills through the summer, its traditionally slowest season, Ferrence said.

The association sent letters to supporters three weeks ago telling them of the dire situation and asking for contributions of $1,000 to keep the hotel operating, Ferrence said. Checks for $10,000 had come in by Friday with commitments for more, he said.

The money has to be available by early July to make payroll, food bills and the mortgage payments, Ferrence said.

Money is available in the redevelopment agency funds, Mayor Roger Tobler said. The question is what direction the council members want to go with RDA money. Councilman Travis Chandler in the past has insisted RDA money should be used to address blight and suggested that Boulder City close its redevelopment fund.

Tobler said he had not made up his mind, because he hadn’t heard the arguments pro and con yet. But after his meeting with hotel officials, he came away concerned.

“If we don’t help, it’s a big draw for downtown,” Tobler said. “If it goes, that would have a real negative effect.

“From where I’m sitting, I think we need to help.”

The hotel, which has 20 rooms and suites, had an occupancy rate of 68 percent last year, manager Roger Shoaff said. This year, that fell to 57 percent. He expects that to drop below 50 percent from July 4 to Labor Day.

Some employees have taken pay cuts and others are working extra, unpaid hours to help the hotel make ends meet, he said.

“We need the economy to turn around,” Shoaff said. “We need to be back above 60 percent.”

The hotel has limited options if it does not raise the money, Ferrence said.

The association could close the restaurant and museum for the summer and run the hotel on a skeletal staff, he said. But he fears if the hotel takes that route, it would hurt business in the long run.

The other option is to close it, he said, adding, “We’re a ways from that. There is a large number of people who have said we can’t let that happen.”

CORRECTION: This story was updated to reflect that the Boulder City Redevelopment Agency was to meet on Monday, not Tuesday. | (July 6, 2009)

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