Xanterra Changes Will Impact Cody Tourism

May 30, 2014

Canyon Lodge in Yellowstone.
Credit Penny Preston

Yellowstone National Park lost two hundred cabins this spring. They were part of the park’s largest lodging complex. No, it’s not in the Old Faithful area, nor Mammoth. Penny Preston reports it’s in Canyon Village, where the park’s biggest hotel once stood.

PENNY PRESTON:  The Canyon Hotel was Yellowstone’s largest, from 1910, until 1960. It was created by Old Faithful Inn architect Robert Reamer. 

ROBERT REAMER:  “My parents used to like to go up there and have dinner.”

PRESTON:  Hank Coe’s parents owned Pahaska, the lodge just outside Yellowstone’s East Entrance.  He was a child in the early fifties, when his family would drive from Pahaska to Canyon hotel,  just an hour away.

HANK COE:  “I just remember this huge building up on the side of the hill.  Magnificent building, just spectacular.  Huge dining room.”

PRESTON:  But, the hotel was condemned, and burned down during demolition. Coe remembers the unlikely story that was told by the Cody demolition contractor.

COE:  “And in February when there was a huge snowpack, lightning struck it or something happened to it and it caught on fire.”

It was replaced by 400 cabins.

PRESTON: Despite the history...this spring, contractors demolished 200 of the old cabins that were built in the 1950's. 

Rick Hoeninghausen is the marketing director for the Park’s lodging concessionaire, Xanterra says they are trying to modernize the area.

RICK HOENINGHAUSEN: “With the new contract that Xanterra received, we’re putting over 134 million into Park investments.”

PRESTON:  The biggest chunk of that investment will go into five new lodges in Canyon Village.

HOENINGHAUSEN:  “And these will be beautiful, big five story lodges, very, very sustainably built.  So the visitor experience should be quite improved.”

PRESTON:  Hoeninghausen says the lodging footprint will be much smaller than the one required for the 400 cabins that will all be removed.  That’s the good news. 

The bad news is there’s going to be a short term lodging shortage.

HOENINGHAUSEN:  “Until we get the new lodges in place next year, we’ll just be down 220 cabins.”

PRESTON:  Cody Chamber Director Scott Balyo says gateway communities will benefit.

SCOTT BALYO:  “ It means that we’ll have additional demand for rooms outside the Park”

PRESTON:  And, while some visitors may be disappointed they can’t stay in Yellowstone this summer, Balyo says the big picture is positive.

BALYO:  “But in the long term it’s gonna be great, because those facilities needed to be updated.  And that Canyon redevelopment will really pay off in the future.”

PRESTON:  Because of all the changes, Balyo says if you want to stay at a hotel inside the Park, you will need to plan early.

BALYO:  “A lot of people show up and think they’ll just be able to go up into the Park and get a room.  And, that’s often just not the case…so we try to ask people and help facilitate that.  Sometimes it’s calls to the concessionaire in the Park, Xanterra, other times it’s directing people to local lodging options so they have a room for the night.

Reporting from Canyon Village in Yellowstone National Park, I’m Penny Preston for Wyoming Public Radio.