Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun
Saturday, July 11, 2009 | 8:14 p.m.
Boulder Dam Hotel
- Hotel, old politics suffer blow (7-11-2009)
- Historic Boulder Dam Hotel out of money, shutting down (7-9-2009)
- City money could rescue historic Boulder Dam Hotel (6-30-2009)
- Visitor slowdown has historic Boulder City hotel needing money (6-29-2009)
Beyond the Sun
Sandy Nelson stopped by the historic Boulder Dam Hotel one last time on Saturday to play the grand piano in the lobby.
Michelle Kessler, a former front desk clerk, brought her husband and two children to the Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum at the hotel for a final visit.
Cheryl Ferrence, former president of the nonprofit group that owns the hotel, dropped by to leave her key to the museum. Her husband, Bill, the nonprofit group’s most recent president, was with her, giving the staff farewell hugs.
Sixteen years after the Boulder Dam Hotel Association began raising $3 million to restore the Depression-era structure to its original luster, the Boulder Dam Hotel closed its doors at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The Boulder City Museum and Historical Association, which owns the hotel, restaurant and museum, ran out of money and options, and its board voted Wednesday to close at the end of the pay period, while it could still make payroll.
It was three months behind on $940,000 in mortgages. An insurance payment was due. Vendors were asking for money.
Meanwhile, the recession took a toll on occupancy, hotel manager Roger Shoaff said. Revenue was down about $60,000 since December, the difference between making it or not, he said.
The historical association made an emergency appeal in June to its regular donors: Please send $1,000 to keep the hotel open, the letter said. About $15,000 came in, Bill Ferrence said — not enough to meet the bills.
Association board members appealed to the office of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wealthy patrons, everyone who knew anyone — and finally, the City Council.
The request to the City Council for redevelopment funds sparked controversy.
Council members Linda Strickland and Travis Chandler maintained it was inappropriate to use RDA money for the operational expenses of a failing business, even if it was a nonprofit group. Mayor Roger Tobler and Councilman Cam Walker held that saving the hotel, which had never received RDA money through its entire renovation, would prevent future blight.
The deciding vote, by Councilman Duncan McCoy, who supported the RDA loan, was not cast. He was advised to abstain because of his past position as a member of the historical association board, and the motion to lend an emergency $40,000 failed on a 2-2 vote.
Few mentioned the controversy as they paid their last respects to the hotel, whose guests in its heyday included Shirley Temple, Bette Davis, Will Rogers and the Vanderbilts.
Boulder City residents Nathan Lenon and Laura Miller came to have lunch in the restaurant. They said they disagreed about whether RDA money should be used, but today was not the day to discuss that.
“The impact of the closing will be felt by businesses here,” Lenon said.
“It’s an iconic feature of Boulder City,” Miller said.
Kelly Wells and Troy Poe were supposed to be married at the hotel Aug. 1 and were shocked and saddened to hear it is closing.
“Obviously I love the hotel and that’s why we wanted to get married here,” said Wells, a Boulder City resident who said they were lucky enough to find other arrangements.
“It’s unfortunate for the community to close for funding reasons,” Poe said. “The community loses out, aside from our personal drama.”
The Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum had steady business throughout the day as people made the trip to see it before they lost the opportunity.
“I had been wanting to come see about the history of the dam and hadn’t had a chance,” said Terri Lowell, a Las Vegas resident who brought her two daughters to the museum. “When I heard it was closing, I knew I couldn’t wait.”
Kessler, the former front desk clerk, had to make a final visit to the museum with her 6-year-old son and baby.
“I wanted him to see it one more time,” she said.
After serving lunch, the final meal at the restaurant, Maria Hernandez held onto her optimism as she cleaned the kitchen.
“It’s going to be open again. I’m positive,” she said. “That’s why I’m not worried. It’s impossible. It can’t close forever.”
Shoaff, whose wife, Rosanne, helped him manage the hotel, agreed it would probably reopen at some point “in one form or another. I don’t think the town will let it die.”
“Because we are closing, it doesn’t make the efforts of the past 16 years for naught,” he said. “We gave tens of thousands of people unique, positive, memorable experiences. Whether we close or not, that’s already done, and that’s what I’m proud of.”