Convention Center Plans Unveiled

By Beacon Staff

The Whitefish Chamber’s board of directors in March got a “sneak peek” at preliminary plans for Two Elk Lodge, a new hotel, convention center and entertainment complex that could be headed for the Whitefish area.

I say “could be” because the project’s backers are about to launch a full-blown feasibility analysis that – when completed – will determine the financial viability of the project, and identify the best location for the development. The study is expected to kick off in two to three weeks, and should be done by early July. Backers of the project are hopeful that the analysis will support their belief that the Whitefish area can support such a development, and – if so – they could break ground on the project as early as this fall.

Though it wouldn’t even be the largest hotel in Whitefish, the proposed Two Elk Lodge – built in the style of Glacier National Park’s grand log-and-stone hotels – is the obvious centerpiece of the development.

The proposal describes the lodge as a 150-room “upscale boutique” hotel, with 400-square-foot guest rooms, gas fireplaces and all the amenities you’d expect from a four-star resort, including: a 120-seat restaurant and bar; indoor/outdoor pools and spas; a retail shopping plaza; and access to the on-site water park, outdoor ice rink, conference/convention center and outdoor amphitheater.

Yeah, that’s a mouthful, so let’s take them one at a time:

Convention Center
The resort’s convention center will be capable of handling meetings, conferences and conventions for groups of up to 2,000 people, including tradeshow, exhibit, meeting and catering space. The convention center would be linked to the main lodge by enclosed walkways.

Indoor Water Park
Plans call for construction of a 48,000-square-foot indoor water park and outdoor splash pool. The park will feature a wave pool, lazy river and multiple slides and rides, and proponents believe the park itself will become a regional tourist destination.

Ice Arena
Also included in the latest plans is an Olympic-size indoor ice arena with permanent seating for up to 1,000 spectators … a year-round facility for ice skating, hockey and other ice sports. A series of ponds that wind through the resort could also be used for wintertime outdoor skating.

Outdoor Amphitheater
Located adjacent to the convention center is an open-air performing arts venue, allowing the resort to host large outdoor concerts, festivals and other community gatherings.

Backers estimate that, when complete, the project will employ approximately 400 people, with an annual payroll of more than $5 million. If they actually break ground on the project this fall, completion would be slated for the spring of 2016.

Jason Spring, the Chamber’s Vice Chair/Economic Development & Government Affairs, expressed his strong support for the project, saying it could create much-needed jobs, boost shoulder season visitation with conference-goers, and attract additional visitors to the area year-round.

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