With Sports Ranch Underway, Casper Looks to Develop Nearby Land

City plans to sell sites for hotels, restaurants to support the $50M youth sports complex

Casper city officials are working to lure private developers to 112 acres of land the municipality owns adjacent to the Wyoming Sports Ranch (pictured) for hotels, restaurants, shops and recreation. When completed late next year, the $50 million youth sports complex is expected to contain as many as 20 volleyball courts, 10 basketball courts and a host of related amenities. (Rendering courtesy of Wyoming Sports Ranch)

By K.L. McQuaid

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Spurred on by the construction of a $50 million sports complex that is expected to transform the city into a hub for youth competitions, Casper officials are moving forward with a plan to develop an adjacent 112 acres.

With the nonprofit Wyoming Sports Ranch roughly a year away from completion, Casper officials are hoping to install necessary infrastructure – roads, water and sewer lines and electric utilities – to lure developers to build hotels, restaurants, shops and other amenities on the adjacent city-owned land.

Such ancillary support services will not only generate additional taxes for Casper, but also contribute to the success of the Sports Ranch, officials say.

“This is a transformational opportunity for Casper,” City Manager J. Carter Napier told the Wyoming Truth.

The decision to move forward stemmed from a draft development plan Casper’s nine-member City Council sought earlier this year, which considered various ways the city could support and leverage the land’s proximity to the 131,000-square-foot Sports Ranch and the 9,700-seat Ford Wyoming Center, a municipally owned multipurpose venue.

In October 2022, the city agreed to lease land near the multipurpose venue for the construction of the Sports Ranch.

To fund the necessary infrastructure, which carries an estimated cost of $15 million, Casper intends to apply for a grant and a loan from the Wyoming Business Council, a statewide group formed to encourage economic development.

Napier said the city will seek a $5 million grant and a loan of the same amount from the Business Council’s “Business Ready Community Program” to pay for the costs to make the land “pad ready’ for vertical development.

The city plans to submit its application to the Business Council by Nov. 1.

To bolster its chances of success, the city has retained the University of Wyoming’s Center for Business and Economic Analysis to develop an economic impact statement outlining potential visitor spending at improvements on the 112 acres.

David Aadland, the director of the economic center in the university’s College of Business, said the analysis will calculate the number of potential jobs that will be created by the development, the total taxes generated and the additional gross domestic product (GDP) that is produced by the new development.

“That piece of property is critical for the city to develop some synergy to support the other valuable civic assets in the area,” said City Council member Amber Pollock, whose Ward One district includes Ford Center, the Sports Ranch and the 112-acre tract. “It makes a ton of sense to develop up there, because there’s already so much momentum taking place.”

‘Magnet to draw more people to Casper’

In addition to hotel rooms, eateries and shops to support visitors and locals who will compete at the Sports Ranch, the city draft plan envisions both indoor and outdoor recreational facilities and perhaps even new office space.

The city has owned the land under consideration for development since the 1980s, when the event center was constructed, Napier said.

“A hotel would be an obvious help for that area,” said Tyler Daugherty, CEO of Visit Casper, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. “Anytime you can create an experience for families so that they can come, park their car and walk to various locations, it’s a huge benefit. I think it’ll be very appealing and be part of what brings people back again and again.”

For Glenda Thomas, vice president of the board of directors of the Wyoming Sports Ranch, developing the adjacent land with ancillary services and amenities will help foster a more seamless and welcoming experience for athletes and their families.

“Youth sports is a $20 billion a year industry in this country, and Casper is the perfect location for a facility such as the Sports Ranch,” Thomas said. “We’re located in the middle of the state, so we will attract folks from all over Wyoming but also from parts of Idaho and Denver and Fort Collins, too.

“It’s going to be a magnet to draw more people to Casper, because we envision having 24 weekends of tournaments every year,” she added. “Having amenities nearby will only make people want to come back.”

If the Business Council approves the city’s application for infrastructure funds, the request would go before the state’s five-member Loan and Investment Board, which includes Gov. Mark Gordon, for approval.

Board approval could mean Casper could receive funding and begin infrastructure work as early as next summer, Napier said.

He credits the Sports Ranch’s pending presence with bringing the development idea for the 112 acres to the fore.

“The Sports Ranch is the reason for all of this,” Napier said. “These kinds of discussions were not on the table until they got underway.”

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