A ‘New Beginning’ for the Outlaw Inn

By Beacon Staff

After being mired in uncertainty under bank ownership for almost two years, the iconic Outlaw Inn has new owners who plan to reinvest more than $500,000 into the property that sits prominently at the south entrance of Kalispell.

Rocky Mountain Hospitality LLC, a hotel operator based in Post Falls, Idaho, acquired the 218-room hotel and its 9-acre site from Mountain West Bank last week.

Steve Rice, who co-owns Rocky Mountain Hospitality with his wife Cinthia, said the Outlaw Inn would undergo an extensive renovation, beginning with the repaving of the parking lot and adding a new roof over the entire facility. After the busy summer season, Rice said crews would remodel and upgrade the rooms and suites “one by one” and establish the hotel under the GuestHouse Inn, Suites and Conference Center franchise. Rice estimated the overall remodeling costs to be “the better part of half a million dollars.”

“We think it’s a magnificent property and still very viable in that market. It’s an outstanding opportunity and we love Kalispell,” Rice said.

Rice said the extended stay units on the hotel’s north end would remain intact but also undergo renovations. His company is also seeking potential leases for the convention center space. The Bulldog Pub will remain a tenant in the building as well, Rice said.

The series of improvements and the new owners have encouraged staff and other nearby business owners about the Outlaw’s future.

“We’re all really excited here,” said Christine Mays, the hotel’s general manager. “For me, it feels like an end to the uncertainty and a new beginning.”

The Rices founded Rocky Mountain Hospitality in 1998 with an investment in a single hotel property in Pocatello, Idaho. In the years since, the company has grown to more than 100 employees and more than eight properties in Idaho and Montana, including six GuestHouse hotel franchises. It acquired the GuestHouse Inn, Suites and Conference Center in Missoula in the summer of 2011.

Rice’s company has succeeded largely by purchasing turnaround properties and renovating and repositioning them in the market, which could foreshadow the situation at the Outlaw.

Once venerated as a thriving hotel and convention center, the Outlaw Inn fell into a seemingly perpetual state of decline in the last decade. In August 2011, Mountain West Bank took over ownership with a deed in lieu of foreclosure. While seeking potential buyers through Grubb and Ellis, the bank contracted Oregon-based TQ Properties to manage and operate the facility.

“The bank was really good to work with,” Rice said. “We did the quickest close we’ve ever had on the largest asset we’ve ever acquired.”

Rice said the Outlaw would retain its staff. He hopes the hotel will generate funds during the busy summer that can be reinvested into the facility.

The reinvestment into the facility signals the latest positive turn for the south end of Kalispell. The city council in May approved a development plan for two lots owned by Gardner Investments on U.S. Highway 93. The decision opened the door for a proposed 11,000-square-foot car dealership owned by DePratu Ford and Volkswagen.

“I think it’s a positive and it’s encouraging. Ninety percent of people coming into town are coming through the south corridor,” said Shannon Nalty, who owns the development group Riverview Associates, which owns several properties in the area, including all of Southfield Park Plaza.

“When we came here almost 20 years ago, the Outlaw was the preeminent hotel. Then it went through a massive decline. But in the last six months, it’s really cleaned up. Now with this new ownership group, we have a viable hotel again. It’s really encouraging.”

RELATED: Kalispell Icon at a Crossroads

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