CASPER, Wyo. -- The city of Casper will have to wait a little bit longer before finding out how big, where and what kind of conference center to build.
City Manager John Patterson said the Strategic Advisory Group's market study won't be available until February because of delays created by the holidays. The group will present its findings to the Casper City Council on Feb. 27.
"Then I think it's gut-check time as far as location," Patterson said. "This is going to answer the 'what' question, and now the community needs to answer the 'where' question."
After the council receives the study results, Patterson said the city will solicit a proposal for construction and search for partnerships. He said both public and private partnerships will be sought to manage the conference center's construction and operation.
Urban Renewal Manager Liz Becher said at a Downtown Development Authority meeting Wednesday that the Strategic Advisory Group has examined facilities at conference centers in northern Colorado, South Dakota, Utah, northern Idaho, Montana and elsewhere in Wyoming.
"They were gathering the data from all the comparable and competitive facilities in the region," she said. "That was part of their scope of work, and that involved physical visits."
The city is paying the group $45,000 for the study, which was initially expected in January. The results will determine how much demand there is in Casper for a conference center and recommend locations and sizes for the structure.
"I'm chomping at the bit to find out what they've found," said Aaron McCreight, CEO of the Casper Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
McCreight said in December that he is especially eager to see what the advisory group suggests when it comes to hotel accommodations. With 2,656 rooms in town, he said there are already plenty, but a conference center would need nearby hotel rooms to succeed.
"I don't believe we need additional rooms in the market at this point," McCreight said. "But that said, a new facility, if it were to be a standalone facility with no rooms attached, I don't think that's the right answer, either."
As for location, McCreight said the advisory group independently scouted the city and identified some possibilities, but city officials will have the final say.
"I think there will be an overall consensus on where this conference center should go, and that's what's important," he said.
The Casper Area Convention and Visitors Bureau conducted a survey in the spring of 2011 that showed Casper misses out on about $10 million in convention business each year. The survey also concluded that the city could gain $200,000 per year in tax revenue from conference and convention business. Although the survey was not meant to be an in-depth analysis, McCreight said it demonstrated the effect that convention business can have on city revenue.
"By losing that business, it doesn't just affect my office and the convention and visitors bureau," he said. "It affects every single person in this community, whether they own a business or not."